The road to a made-in-Canada Green New Deal

By Atiya Jaffar, Digital Campaigner with 350 Canada

Green New Deal panel in Ottawa at Powershift Young & Rising, February 2019. Photo Credit: Allan Lissner

Today, the House of Commons saw two competing “climate emergency” resolutions.

One resolution, from the NDP, was voted down, the other, from the Liberals, moves to a vote in the coming weeks. And while they’re both symbolic at the end of the day — motions in Parliament don’t hold any legislative weight — they are important. They’re important because they’re only happening because students, youth and everyday people across the country are standing up to demand real, bold climate action. And, a big part of that is that the movement for a made-in-Canada Green New Deal is taking off in a big way.

At this point, you’ve probably heard about the growing movement for a made-in-Canada Green New Deal. Last week, a coalition of over 60 organizations, grassroots groups, movement leaders, and even a couple of Avengers, launched something called the Pact for a Canada Green New Deal, and since then, tens of thousands of people have signed up.

So what does it mean to have a made-in-Canada Green New Deal? Who defines it? And how will it actually become a reality?

What do we mean by made-in-Canada Green New Deal?

Popularized by the youth-led Sunrise movement in the United States, and by Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Green New Deal is a bold vision for tackling climate change and inequality at the same time.

The concept of a Green New Deal has been around for a while — former MP Megan Leslie called for one during a House of Commons debate back in 2009 — but recently, it’s been gaining momentum in Canada, especially after the Powershift Young and Rising gathering in Ottawa this past February. A youth convergence organized to skill up and build a stronger and more inclusive youth climate justice movement, Powershift made imagining Canada’s Green New Deal the focal point of a series of strategy sessions, workshops, and panels.

Since then, it’s steadily grown. Social movement leaders have laid out the broad strokes for Canada’s Green New Deal: ambitious action to address climate change, a focus on putting justice first by upholding the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous peoples, ensuring dignity for all, and creating millions of good jobs.

But bringing this idea to life will mean transformative policy change to completely retool the economy. And, in order for it to truly work for everyone, the vision for a Green New Deal must be built from the ground up.

Who decides what’s in a Green New Deal and what isn’t?

People from all walks of life, and every corner of the country, will be in the front seat when it comes to defining Canada’s Green New Deal. Starting this weekend, thousands of people will gather in community centers, church basements, and living rooms all across Canada to identify the kind of solutions that will allow our communities to thrive.

These town halls — almost 200 of them — will come in all shapes and sizes, and take place in urban and rural communities alike. Each one will help us ground-truth a Green New Deal for Canada from the bottom up. Input collected from town halls will help sharpen our shared vision of a Green New Deal, and we’ll use that vision to push politicians to take ambitious action.

There are almost 200 town halls taking place all across the country. Join one near you to help shape a shared vision for Canada’s Green New Deal.

How do we make a Green New Deal a reality?

October’s Canadian federal election will be a pivotal moment in the fight to win a Green New Deal. In the last federal election, climate change took a backseat to virtually every other issue.

With the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change laying out a clear 12 year timeline for tackling climate change last fall, we only have 11 years left to rise to this challenge. The government we elect this fall will hold office for four of those precious years, which means this election is one of our last, best chances to meet this crisis.

With such a rapidly approaching deadline we need to be bold. Canada’s current climate plan has us on track to exceed 4ºC of global temperature rise. 4ºC might sound like an innocuous number but that kind of change to our global climate means entire countries being swallowed by rising seas, countless displaced communities — and quite frankly, it would be a death sentence for billions of the world’s most vulnerable people.

That’s why in the lead up to the federal election, we will have to build a massive people-powered movement to fight for Canada’s Green New Deal.

That movement is already starting to take shape. There are nearly 200 Green New Deal town halls happening across the country over the next two weeks. Workers in Southern Ontario are calling for shuttered auto plants to be nationalized and repurposed for building electric vehicles as part of a Green New Deal, while postal workers have, for months, been talking about a plan to turn Canada Post into a green hub for the new economy, delivering renewable energy to communities across Canada. And, those are just a couple examples.

There is also a seven-city tour planned from June 11th to the 22nd that will bring local artists, activists, and community leaders together to build waves of support behind a Canada Green New Deal.

Perhaps most importantly though, young people and millenials are organizing with the Our Time campaign to build a once in a lifetime voting alliance for a Green New Deal. It’s a bold plan, and it just might work, since people under 35 are the largest potential voting bloc this election.

But before that happens, as we get closer and closer to the election, we have to organize across generations to make sure that every federal party leader and political hopeful is prepared to speak to a Green New Deal and why it is absolutely essential for responding to a climate emergency.

We will also need to take action as a movement to push, beyond partisan lines, for every single candidate to support Canada’s Green New Deal in the election, and if they win office. The climate crisis is real, and we’re looking for real champions who are ready to tackle it and also create millions of good jobs in a 100% renewable energy economy, enshrine dignity, justice, and equity for all, and respect the rights, title and sovereignty of Indigenous Peoples.

Here’s the catch

We need to elect Green New Deal champions this October, but this movement can’t end there. Once the votes are counted, our work really begins and we’re going to need a mass people-powered movement to take Canada’s Green New Deal from vision, to policy and into law. To put it another way, if we want solutions that work for everyone, we need everyone.

We’ve got a big and ambitious fight ahead but luckily, it’s also a winnable one! If you’re interested in getting involved with Canada’s Green New Deal, the first step is joining a town hall near you from May 18th — 31st. Click here to sign up.