Our names are Monica and Niklas. We’re two young people who have grown up with austerity our entire lives while inheriting a dying earth. With climate change on every party’s agenda for the 2019 election our question is simple: do any of the party leaders have a climate plan that matches the scale and urgency youth demand?
Over the past few weeks, extreme flooding across Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick has pushed climate change to the forefront of the political news cycle. As waters rose, so did calls for real action, with an intense debate this week in the House of Commons sparked by the introduction of two competing climate emergency motions introduced by the Liberals and the NDP.
Our names are Monica and Niklas. We’re two young people who have grown up with austerity our entire lives while inheriting a dying earth. Do any of the party leaders have a climate plan that matches the scale and urgency youth demand?
The Liberals have been on hard defence, calling the NDP climate emergency motion “problematic” while simultaneously introducing their own. They also spent the last few weeks goading the Conservatives for lacking a climate policy while ignoring their own $4.5 billion pipeline purchase, as well as continuous reports that they are miles away from meeting their Harper-era climate targets, let alone coming close to Canada's Paris Agreement committments. The Liberals went as far as to suggest that something they call a “Clean New Deal” certifies them as climate leaders.
Meanwhile, Jagmeet Singh again promised bold climate moves from the NDP, becoming the first party leader to name a Green New Deal as an election priority, but he has been not been able to articulate a strong stance against projects like LNG Canada, seemingly in denial that we just can’t afford to invest in any more fossil fuel infrastructure, period.
Throughout Canada, climate change is polling as a defining election issue across the political spectrum. But, for young people like us, living in climate and economic precarity, the critical question is: how do we distinguish between climate policies that are superficial corporate handouts — like giving $12 million to Loblaws for energy efficient freezers and throwing $400 million at corporations for “low-carbon innovation” — from policies that actually meet the scale of the crisis?
As young people who have seen failed climate policy after failed climate policy from our federal governments, we know that incremental free market solutions such as carbon taxes, clean tech innovation, and tax rebates aren't working to prevent the damage we are already seeing and only exist to support a status quo that exploits the most vulnerable in our society.
The IPCC has given us just over a decade to get our act together on climate change, and we need political parties to seize this moment. The current line of “economy and environment” is empty rhetoric, and people know it. Buying a pipeline and then taxing the average person at the pumps is hypocritical.
We need large-scale government action to tackle large-scale problems, and that’s why a Green New Deal is so inspiring. Through it, we could meet the scientific imperative laid out by the IPCC and tackle the mass economic, racial and social inequality our generation also faces. But a Green New Deal plan needs to be more than just a buzzword.
It needs to check the corporate power of the oil sector, which generated $13.5 billion in profit in 2017 while cutting 50,000 jobs and creating dangerously toxic air pollution for adjacent Indigenous communities. It needs to change Canada’s reliance on boom and bust extractive industries that leave workers in the dust when prices drop. It needs to combat a widening wealth gap and increasingly precarious employment that fuels growing racism and white supremacism.
A Canadian Green New Deal could create publicly owned energy utilities with high paying, low carbon jobs. It could fund initiatives like a national green energy grid, a federal jobs guarantee for care and other low carbon work, and truly universal healthcare. And those are just a few examples because a Green New Deal would retool our entire economy to tackle climate change and inequality.
That’s why we’re excited that Jagmeet Singh is starting to talk about a Green New Deal and declaring a climate emergency. But, our generation needs more than compromise on subsidizing an unprofitable LNG industry in B.C. or piecemeal solutions like taking 31 years to retrofit all buildings in Canada. We need to be bold, and leave behind the marginal, unprincipled and uninspiring ideas that the political establishment — whether it’s Notley, Trudeau or Biden — continue to push as “middle ground” climate solutions. If any politician hopes to capture the youth vote, they need to propose a truly inspiring vision for the future.