A report released by Energy Policy Tracker this week revealed that, since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Canada has committed to handing out $16 billion in public money to fossil fuel companies. At a time when thousands across the country are struggling to make ends meet, it’s unacceptable for the government to pour billions into an industry that’s cooking the planet.
As governments around the world begin to lay out their ambitious recovery plans to address the unprecedented crises we are up against, Canada continues to drag its feet on investing in a Just Recovery that takes care of people and the planet.
Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government has a history of committing to bold and ambitious climate action, while continuing to line the pockets of fossil fuel billionaires. Even amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Canada continues to be one of the top 10 fossil fuel burners in the world.
We have a once in a generation opportunity to put bold and ambitious recovery plans in place and tackle the climate emergency. It’s time to defund harmful institutions, like the fossil fuel industry, and invest that public money into a low-carbon economy that puts the health and needs of people first.
Here’s are 6 ways we think that this $16 billion would be better spent:
1. $150 million to kickstart 100 Indigenous-led renewable energy projects.
The climate crisis is still at our front door, and continues to disproportionately impact those already marginalized and oppressed. We know that solving this crisis means phasing out our dependence on fossil fuels.
Indigenous communities across the country are leading the transition to a renewable energy future with community-led climate change solutions. One example is the T’souke First Nations solar power project that set up over 60 systems that can produce all of a family’s hot water and electricity. The project was kickstarted by the T’souke First Nation with $1.5 million collected by the community in various grants and it provides employment to 15 community members every year.
2) $3.2 billion dollars can end all boil water advisories on First Nations reserves.
This would ensure all communities have access to clean drinking water for good. More than 100 Indigenous communities across Canada do not have access to safe drinking water. This is a public health crisis. Canada’s own parliamentary budget officer claims that a $3.2 billion investment will bring First Nations water systems up to the standards of non-Indigenous communities.
The federal government has barely made a dent in its commitment to provide access to clean drinking water for communities under boil advisories to date. It is unacceptable that Indigenous communities are forced to endure substandard living conditions.
3) $5 billion in emergency funding for Canada’s largest transit union to support public transportation.
Transit is an essential service, and provides much needed service to communities who depend on public transportation. For less than one third of what they’ve invested in fossil fuels, Canada could meet the request of ATU Canada, the country’s largest transit union, which has asked the federal government for $5 billion in emergency funding. These funds would support transit workers who are on the frontlines of COVID-19, including offsetting the increased costs due to lost transit revenue, prioritizing PPE for transit system workers, and providing sick leave and job protection in the midst of the global crisis.
4) $5 billion dollars a year could provide affordable housing for those that need it most.
Housing is a basic human right and need. Instead of securing fossil fuel executives’ next paychecks, we can invest in affordable housing options for communities experiencing homelessness.
This annual investment to the National Housing Strategy would create up to 6000 new builds and make essential repairs to 24,000 existing housing units a year to provide affordable housing for vulnerable populations.
5) $200 million to address the opioid crisis.
For the past four years, BC and other provinces have been grappling with an opioid crisis. And COVID-19 has led to an increase in overdose and stalled progress on opioid prevention initiatives. These much needed funds will allow health authorities to scale up harm reduction services and invest in wide scale implementation of safe supply pilot programs.
6) $300 million annually to run over 100 programs that replace policing in communities across the country.
We need to ensure no more Black and Indigenous lives are lost to state-sanctioned police violence. This starts with cutting the power of policing and surveillance and instead investing in programs that actually make communities safer.
We know alternatives exist. In Portland, Oregon, a program called CAHOOTS (Crisis Assistance Helping Out On The Streets) dispatches a medic and a crisis worker trained in mental health and de-escalation instead of police officers for wellness checks, overdose crises, and domestic disputes. Programs like CAHOOTs phase out police and provide alternatives to handling community and mental health crises. They develop innovative public safety systems and divert public safety responsibilities to people trained to deal with crises. CAHOOTS operates at an annual budget of less than $3 million CAD. That means $300 million could fund over 100 programs like CAHOOTS in cities across Canada.
In the midst of converging crises, we need unprecedented action and investment from our leaders. Canada has two choices ahead of itself, continue to invest public money in harmful institutions that take us back to business as usual of mass austerity and unrestrained corporate power. Or invest in people and communities to tackle systemic racism, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the climate emergency.
That’s why people across the country are rising up to demand a Just Recovery to build back better after the COVID-19 pandemic. Over 500 organizations representing millions of people across the country have signed on to the 6 principles of a Just Recovery that call on all level of governments to take action to put people, workers, and communities first as we get to work on post-pandemic economic recovery. Learn more about this growing movement here.
It’s not too late for them to invest in a future that takes care of people and the planet. Tell Canada to reject “recovery” plans that drag us backwards and invest in building back better for a Just Recovery.