On a gorgeous spring evening in June 2019, about 150 people came together in a church hall in Fredericton to hammer out some things. Their mission: to decide collectively what they wanted to see included in and—perhaps more importantly—excluded from a Green New Deal for society. The results of that evening discussion are found here, in a pamphlet written by volunteers from some of the twelve co-hosting civil society organizations, coordinated by the Council of Canadians Fredericton Chapter.
A sequel to that meeting was to have taken place in March in Fredericton, to broaden and deepen the understanding, ramp up the conversation and keep the concepts current. The global pandemic quashed these plans, which are now pivoting to re-emerge as a series of online webinars open to everyone in the province.
Next week, the first webinar will cover the topic “Delivering Community Power.” An initiative of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, Delivering Community Power is a proposal to turn Canada Post into an engine for a justice-based transition to a post-carbon economy, with energy retrofits and solar-powered rooftops wherever feasible, and a made-in-Canada fleet of electric delivery vehicles.
First launched in 2016, the truly transformative campaign re-launched in fall of 2019 in time for the federal election, pushing several engagement mechanisms to boost the program’s profile and public recognition.
Imagine postal banking, EV-charging stations, and postal workers driving electric vans doing combinations of delivering mail, medicine, groceries and more, and checking in on seniors. This is the kind of innovative, creative use of a national utility which, at over 6,000 retail outlets–many in rural areas– has more on-street presence than Tim Hortons.
George Nickerson, CUPW Local 054 representative in Fredericton and scheduled presenter, said “The Delivering Community Power campaign has something for everyone and we already have the largest retail and delivery network in the country. The only thing missing is the political will to make it happen.” Nickerson will speak in the April 23rd webinar, details and registration for which are found here.
Following the Delivering Community Power presentation will be one from Green Jobs Oshawa, a group pushing to transition the General Motors Plant in Oshawa into an electric vehicle production centre. Its vision includes manufacture of electric delivery vans that are central to Delivering Community Power.
In the short-term, a letter and petition have been sent to Prime Minister Trudeau to retool the 10M square foot GM plant to produce medical equipment for domestic use, rather than what Ottawa is currently pursuing: having a car plant in China do just this, according to The Globe and Mail. Pivoting the Oshawa plant could provide some laid-off car workers who live in Durham and Northumberland Counties in Ontario with jobs. The lower carbon footprint of producing locally for Ontario/Canada front-line health workers’ needs is evident and there would be no danger of Canada being outbid on the tarmac in China by the US Administration and the shipment being diverted to the US.
Green Jobs Oshawa’s proposal is one of many that are starting to seem possible in this age of new normals. The pandemic has caused the rapid reorganization and redeployment of facilities and entrenched systems that up until just recently, could not previously have been imagined.
But what is a Green New Deal anyway?
A Green New Deal is a concept promoted by a coalition of Canadian NGOs, artists and individuals to address the impending climate disaster by dramatically cutting greenhouse gas emissions, respecting Indigenous rights and knowledge, creating many good jobs in a new, green economy and building inclusive communities in the process. It’s a tall order, but it is more relevant now than ever.
As noted in this Corporate Knights article from 2019, “…fundamental principles have begun to be put forward, for example by those that have endorsed the Pact for a Green New Deal:
It must meet the demands of Indigenous knowledge and science and cut Canada’s emissions in half in 11 years while protecting cultural and biological diversity.
It must leave no one behind and build a better present and future for all of us.
As we begin to dig in … a Green New Deal for Canada could include:
- shifting to 100% zero-emission and renewable energy sources
- retrofitting all existing buildings to the highest energy efficiency standards
- building clean, affordable and accessible public transit, including high-speed rail
- building a more sustainable food system that ensures universal access to healthy food
- ensuring truly universal access to clean water and affordable housing
- skills retraining and a national jobs guarantee for private and public sector workers across the country [to enable participation in this new low-carbon economy].
When we pass through the current pandemic crisis, we will be faced with a series of climate disasters that will challenge us to the core. How we prepare ourselves to cope with the coming years is what the Green New Deal is all about—it is really the only alternative, as we cannot go back to business as usual. Business as usual is killing us.
The beauty of the Green New Deal is that it melds climate action with justice, equity and respect for living things in a way that looks to the future while it tries to avoid past mistakes.
One thing we are learning: in a crisis, anything is possible. The only question will be, will that ‘anything’ be a green new deal, or just more of same that brought us to the precipice we’re at now?
Join us for the webinar on Delivering Community Power, Green Jobs Oshawa and other reflections on the Green New Deal on Thursday, April 23, 2020 at 8pm ADT. Find the zoom link and register here.
Margo Sheppard is a member of the Council of Canadians Fredericton Chapter.