April 8th, 2020
Letter to Minister Wilkinson on support for workers and a clean economy
April 7, 2020
Dear Honourable Minister Wilkinson,
In light of reports about an upcoming announcement on the Canadian government’s plan to provide an economic stimulus package to the oil and gas sector, we are writing to draw attention to the need for direct and immediate support for workers and communities and the opportunity to provide long-term economic resiliency by investing in a sustainability and energy transition. It is important that the government recognizes the profound impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic has had on workers, including in the energy sector.
Now more than ever, we need to invest in a clean energy economy with good, sustainable jobs that will provide the economic stability that Canadian families need. New Democrats will always work to ensure workers and their families across Canada are protected and supported and we look forward to working with you to ensure that all programming and funding supports go directly to benefit Canadian workers instead filling the pockets of CEOs.
We strongly urge you to work with your cabinet colleagues to implement a strong stimulus and support package that directly supports Canadian workers while also investing in a clean economy and good, sustainable jobs for the 21st century.
Instead of making the same mistakes that were made in the last decades, we should see this crisis as an opportunity to do things differently and make the changes that we need. In the face of the climate crisis and the spirit of the conclusions of IPCC reports, the stimulus package should include conditions and obligations to invest and create jobs in renewable energies.
In particular, we urge you to take into account measures that New Democrats have been asking for many years. They are part of a plan that we have laid out to help build a future where families have good secure jobs in a sustainable economy.
- Investments in renewable energy and low carbon technology across the country.
- Energy conservation and retrofitting programs across all sectors to reduce emissions, create jobs, and save people money.
- Support for infrastructure development including modernization and expansion of public transit in communities across Canada.
- Solutions for workers and communities, including employment support that combines access to expanded EI benefits, re-training, and job placement services, paired with significant investments to create quality local jobs and support thriving communities.
- Grants to support research, development, and technology transfer as well as seed and bridge funding.
Any stimulus money intended to transition to a sustainable economy must come with conditions that direct the funds to help workers first, so they don’t end up as subsidies to shareholders or CEO bonuses.
Simply giving billions of dollars to oil and gas companies in the form of share purchases or loan guarantees will not be effective in protecting workers and their families, and it will not help create a sustainable future for them. These kinds of bailouts benefit corporate bottom lines over workers and communities who are struggling in the face of a pandemic and an economic crisis. Governments must invest in the future and in people, not corporations and CEOs.
We are encouraged to see that the government is considering an initiative to employ energy to clean up orphan wells, an initiative that the NDP has been calling on for years. It is important that the money allocated to clean up orphan wells be administered by an independent fund to ensure it is used only when a company is bankrupt and not to avoid liability when it has assets remaining to be used for this purpose. To this end, it is also important to have representation from Indigenous communities, local governments, and landowners in the management and oversight of this fund. We would like to stress that this initiative should be used to support the clean up of orphan wells, not the subsidizing of companies who are not meeting their obligations to ensure infrastructure is responsibly managed. If done right, this initiative alone could quickly create transferable jobs for workers and clean up the environmental hazards these wells represent.
COVID-19 presents real and immediate risks to Canadian’s health and livelihoods. We welcome strong stimulus and support measures to keep people safe and healthy, with a roof over their heads and food on the table. We must do this in a way that provides immediate relief to workers and provides opportunities for the future. The measures needed to ensure economic resilience for years to come go hand in hand with recognizing that we are in a climate emergency and that bold action is needed to ensure a livable future while addressing the rising inequality in our country.
In the face of economic uncertainty, we stand with Canadian workers and look forward to working with you on a stimulus plan that puts them, and our commitments to fighting climate change, front and centre.
Member of Parliament for Victoria
NDP Critic for Environment and Climate Change
Member of Parliament for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie
NDP Deputy Leader and Deputy Critic for Environment and Climate Change