A Green Recovery

The following piece by Alberta Liberal Leader David Khan was originally published as an op-ed. 

As we continue to struggle with the “new normal” of this pandemic, we must do so with one eye towards recovery. In my mind, there is only one kind of recovery: one that gets people safely back to work and at the same time, addresses the other major crisis of our time, climate change.

The federal government must take the lead on this because we need a national strategy that will both address the climate crisis and build the new economy.

A green recovery in Canada means investing in communities hard-hit by the economic impact of both the pandemic and the climate crisis. It means big and bold policies, such as carbon capture and storage, the elimination of toxic chemicals in agriculture, consumer goods and manufacturing, and the protection and rehabilitation of land, fresh water, and ocean ecosystems. It also means small, community-based programs that allow individuals to take control of their carbon footprints.

Oil and gas will, of course, remain a vital part of Alberta’s economy. Demand for Alberta’s oil and gas reserves will exist for decades. But we can also utilize conventional resources in new ways, such as converting bitumen into carbon fibre for manufacturing and construction or harnessing lithium waste for battery production.

I acknowledge there is the perception we will take an economic hit if we support the modernization of and a transition to a greener energy sector. This way of thinking is perpetuated by our own Premier and his allies, who have spent taxpayer money on an ‘energy war room’ and corporate bailouts to oil and gas companies, doubling down on the past. I wholeheartedly reject this viewpoint. There is no path to future prosperity in ignoring or fighting against global market and policy forces — this will only increase our vulnerability. I think Joe Biden said it best: when he thinks about climate change, he thinks about jobs. Good-paying jobs that will help advance the green economy.

Alberta’s world-class workforce makes it ideally suited to not only participate in the green economy but to lead it. We have a budding hydrogen industry preparing to provide the world with clean-burning energy. Our skilled tradespeople are the best qualified in the world to build and operate new infrastructure. Our engineers are the innovators needed to create the next generation of green technology. Our entrepreneurs know the energy markets better than anyone. The only things Alberta needs is vision and investment, and that is what the federal government is poised to provide.

The Green Recovery must also ensure no one is left behind. Through training and education, government initiatives must focus on creating secure, well-paid jobs that see all Canadians share in the prosperity we create. New programs such as universal pharmacare, more flexible sick days, expanded childcare and mandated pay equity legislation are critical to improving the quality of life of all Canadians in this recovery. Governments across the country must come together and invest in infrastructure projects to develop affordable and healthy communities, safe and effective transportation networks, and broadband communication accessible for all. A Guaranteed Basic Income would allow Canadians the opportunity to retrain for new jobs in the new economy. Concrete action to dismantle systemic racism and advance Indigenous reconciliation — including economic reconciliation — is fundamental for this Green Recovery to be a recovery for all Canadians.

The Green Recovery is a golden opportunity for Alberta. By embracing this future, Alberta can continue to prosper. Together we can move towards a resilient, healthier, greener, more competitive, and more fair Canada. Let’s build a better future together.

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