Wait to see federal green economic restart before criticizing

It makes little sense to criticize a plan before 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. However, Chrystia Freeland and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau have signalled the post-pandemic economy will be heavily influenced by climate change.

Critics of the government can be skeptical, but one might not want 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 as we know it.”

Members of the right-wing, Conservative-affiliated group are fear mongering over a plan they haven’t seen as a means to request western premiers and lawmakers to push back against a green recovery.

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, most of it through the Canadian Agricultural Partnership (a $3-billion fund), on many projects geared toward the sustained 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 a public relations problem for the industry and not the fault of politicians.

While some federal policies have impacted the energy industry, its suffering is tied tighter to oil and gas investors deciding the industry isn’t worth investing in, following large declines in oil and gas prices in global markets. Canadian prime ministers don’t decide how much oil costs.

Since the 2015 Paris Agreement committed countries around the globe to lower carbon emissions, the number of global fossil fuel divestments has gone up. That same year, industry experts in Canada were touting $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, 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. In a recently released report, it outlined five strategies for helping Canadian agriculture recover from the pandemic.

“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,” says the group, which counts the National Farmers Union and other left-leaning organizations among its members.

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 could fit into any plans the Liberals have for a green economy.

Of course, we will have to wait and see if these proposals are included in the final document. Only then will we be able to judge its merits — not before.

D.C. Fraser is Glacier Farm Media’s Ottawa correspondent. Reach out to him by emailing dfraser@farmmedia.com.

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