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On the road in Nova Scotia for Green Jobs

Thanks to the generous invitation of the Nova Scotia Environmental Network (NSEN, http://www.nsen.ca), I’ve spent yesterday and today in a flurry of activity focused on green jobs. I received this invitation as co-author of the report the Council of Canadians produced alongside the Canadian Labour Congress, Green Decent and Public (http://canadians.org/energy/documents/climatejustice/green-decent-public.pdf) and as the Council’s energy campaigner. The purpose of the visit was to engage with local residents, activists and organizations, to initiate, through NSEN, an exciting and promising discussion on green job potential in Nova Scotia.

Landing in Halifax in the early am, the day began with opening a copy of the Chronicle Herald to see an op-ed Tamara Lorincz (Executive Director of NSEN and activist extraordinaire) and I co-authored “Green Collar Jobs Vital to a Sustainable N.S. Economy“. Picked up at the airport by Sam Juru, Program and Caucus Coordinator with NSEN (a genuine activist working for social change in the interests of people and the environment in Nova Scotia), I was hustled off to no less than four interviews with local media including the popular CBC radio show Mainstreet.

Later in the day I joined Angela Giles, the Council’s Atlantic Regional Organizer, at a budget watch  hosted by Tony Tracy with the Canadian Labour Congress.  There I met with a number of individuals representing organizations such as the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), Public Service Alliance of Canada, Nova Scotia Citizens’ Health Care Network, and Canadian Federation of Students, all present to listen and comment on the budget.

Present also was a number of local media sources including Global TV, a local radio station, the Chronicle Herald, and national CBC radio.

Following the budget people shared their organization’s perspectives on Minister Flaherty’s speech. Angela spoke to the failure of the budget to meet the water and trade campaign priorities which you can read here

I was also invited to speak. I shared my serious disappointment at the lack of leadership presented by our government which continues to fail to capture the opportunities to build a green economy.  It is very telling that in mentioning infrastructure projects, Minister Flaherty cited roads and bridges as examples – infrastructure tied to a fossil fuel economy. This is a wasted opportunity. Stimulus dollars for infrastructure should be prioritizing green infrastructure including support for energy efficiency programmes, public transit and expanding renewable energy.

According to the Pembina Institute, the U.S. government still outpaces the Canadian government in spending on renewable energy 14 to 1 per capita (based on 2010-2011 respective budgets). The U.S. outspends Canada 2 to 1 per capita on energy efficiency – a clear “win, win, win” option with the potential to stimulate jobs (particularly when tied to Buy Canadian procurement requirements), contribute to emission reductions and lower energy bills.

I did a brief interview with CBC following the budget review, you can read a quote in this article.

To end a busy and already productive day, I spoke at a public event hosted by NSEN and the Council of Canadians, “A Green Collar Economy: Innovative Ideas for Social Change in Nova Scotia.”

I focused on introducing the broad based growing movement rejecting the historical framework pitting jobs and the economy against the environment, instead calling for a low carbon economy with decent green jobs.  These videos featuring Van Jones (author of Green Collar Economy and Founder of Green for All) describing Eco-equity as well as Green for All’s participation in a Portland based energy efficiency programme are useful tools in understanding the concrete possibilities for green job creation that helps lift people out of poverty. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2SmF3B3734E ; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pmjRRVcIiS0

After this introduction, I focused on discussing the main findings of Green Decent and Public – a report meant to initiate discussions across the country on the prominent role the government and  public sector can play in generating decent green job creation in Canada. This includes government investment in energy efficiency measures and outlining distinct advantages in expanding public and community ownership models for renewable energy (our report focused on the electricity sector). These advantages include retaining economic revenues, social benefits, prioritizing conservation and ensuring energy security.

This was followed by a lively discussion and debate on how to expand renewable energy and build a green economy in Nova Scotia. People relayed experiences in generating green power, talked about wanting to see green job opportunities in their communities that are suffering job losses and  strategies for moving this forward in the Nova Scotian community.

On Friday, Angela and I participated in an NSEN roundtable with more discussions on what concrete steps can be taken to generate tangible actions for building a green economy in this great province.  You can find out more about the NSEN roundtable and the awards given out to community-based environmental leaders here