Comment: Wait to see green economic restart before criticizing

It makes little sense to criticize a plan before any details are available.

What Canada’s new finance minister means when she speaks of a green restart to the economy will largely remain a mystery until the Sept. 23 throne speech – but government has signalled the post-pandemic economy will be heavily influenced by climate change.

Critics of the government can be skeptical, but it’s ignorant to prematurely dismiss the plan.

In open letters sent to federal and provincial lawmakers, the Buffalo Project lobby group warns a green recovery “may be the undoing of our industries… ”

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Members of the right-wing, Conservative-affiliated group are fearmongering over a plan they haven’t seen.

Opposition from western premiers and lawmakers is required, the group argues, because federal policies have caused the suffering of western Canadian economies.

“To date, strategic lip service has been paid to modern agriculture and natural resource development while the Liberal government has slowly undermined our ability to attract investment and build sustainable businesses,” the Buffalo Project says.

It is unclear what the authors mean by “modern agriculture” but at last check, Canada was continuing to spend money on many projects geared toward the sustained and successful growth of the industry.

Pillars of modern agriculture, like plant breeding and crop protection research, continue to exist.

Perhaps the authors are referencing the significant lack of public trust existing in modern agriculture today. A societal lack of trust in farming may be the biggest threat to the industry – but that’s not the fault of politicians.

And while some federal policies have impacted the energy industry, its suffering is tied tighter to oil and gas investors deciding the industry isn’t one worth investing in. Canadian prime ministers don’t decide how much oil costs.

Since 2015, energy industry experts in Canada have touted a “new normal” of $50-a-barrel oil and slow growth. Banks around the world are now choosing not to fund new oil projects and are writing off stranded assets.

Canada is on pace to miss its global climate change commitments made in the Paris Agreement. This, combined with a lack of adequate climate change plans in Alberta and Saskatchewan, isn’t helping investor confidence in the country’s energy industry, either.

A green new deal might help restore some of that confidence.

Instead of dismissing the plan before it exists, perhaps it’s more useful to consider how a green restart could benefit Canadians.

The advocacy group Farmers for Climate Solutions is doing just that.

“COVID-19 recovery is an opportunity to create change in a sector that has seriously lagged in its climate response. Now is the time to support farmers to adopt low-emission, high-resilience approaches that benefit farmers and provide ecological goods and services such as clean water, air, biodiversity, and renewable energy from which all Canadians benefit,” the group, which counts the National Farmers Union and other left-leaning groups amongst its members, says.

Each of its five proposals deserve scrutiny, but encouraging a scale-up of agri-environmental incentives and on-farm renewable energy generation are ideas that look like they could fit into any plans the Liberals have for a green economy.

Of course, we will have to wait and see if any of these proposals are included in the federal plan.

We will be able to judge its merits after — not before.

About the author

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D.C. Fraser

D.C. Fraser is Glacier FarmMedia’s Ottawa-based reporter. Growing up mostly in Alberta, Fraser also lived in Saskatchewan for ten years where he covered politics, including a stint teaching at the University of Regina’s School of Journalism. He is an avid fan of the outdoors and a pretty good beer league hockey player. His passion for agriculture and agri-food policy comes naturally: Six consecutive generations of his family have worked in the industry.

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