Vote for the Environment on October 19th
Disastrous drought and wildfires devastated Western Canada over the summer while sweltering heat waves cooked Southern Ontario. Over the winter, the Maritimes set records for the least snowfall up to the first of January, and for the most ever after that date. The price of oil has bottomed out, laying bare the risks of an economy dependent on the price of a global commodity over which we have little to no control.
After a year like this, and with an exceptionally long campaign period, it could be expected that climate change and the parties’ environmental agendas would occupy the spotlight at some point in the election race. One might imagine that the leaders would be called upon to provide detailed, robust strategies for addressing increasingly urgent sustainability challenges.
Instead, the rare moments that these topics have come up have still been dominated by a tired, clichéd narrative that pits our economy against the environment, and our jobs against the health of Canada’s wildlife, forests, lakes, and population.
Which of the parties are ready to dismiss the false economy vs. environment dichotomy and demonstrate to Canadians an understanding that a healthy environment is actually a basic prerequisite for long-term economic health? Who is ready to embrace a new vision and back it up with concrete policy?
We face a crisis and there are a wide range of initiatives and organization in the environmental sector ready to be scaled up and amplify their impact with the support of strong leadership at the federal level. Incredibly diverse and innovative work is being done by business, local government and non-profits across Canada to shift our trajectory towards a sustainable future:
- The growth of Sustainability CoLab’s target-based sustainability programs in Southern Ontario over its first year demonstrates a real desire among communities and business to reduce their GHG emissions and dramatically reduce their environmental impacts.
- Pembina Institute’s ground-breaking reports, consultations and panels on Climate Change are bringing together some of the best minds in Canada to help inform Alberta’s efforts to take meaningful action on climate change.
- Sustainable Prosperity is working to develop economic tools that help markets better internalize the true costs of natural capital, and engaging decision-makers from across the public and private sectors who recognize the huge potential of their work.
- In the past year, over 80,000 Canadians have joined the David Suzuki Foundation’s Blue Dot movement and 80 municipal governments have passed declarations recognizing the right to fresh air, clean water, and healthy food.
- The Energy Futures Lab, an initiative being co-convened by The Natural Step Canada, the Suncor Energy Foundation, Pembina Institute and the Banff Centre, asks how Alberta’s leadership position in today’s energy system can serve as a platform for transitioning to the energy system the future needs. The Lab has brought together unlikely collaborators including energy companies, environmental non-profits and local government who share a desire to move beyond ‘jobs vs. environment’ narratives in the pursuit breakthrough outcomes like new partnerships, new standards, game-changing business models, and changes to public policy.
- IMPACT! Youth Program for Sustainability Leadership, delivered by The Co-operators and The Natural Step, has inspired and trained thousands of youth across Canada. Helping young people develop skills, access funding, and launch social enterprises in their communities.
It is time for our government to send a strong message to Canadians and the rest of the world by supporting and championing the work being done to move our country toward the economy that the future demands of us. Which of the major parties are willing to take a strong stand on environmental issues, embrace a growing culture of innovation and sustainability, and lead Canada to reclaim its proud tradition of environmental leadership and innovation?