We can win a #GreenNewDeal in Alberta

This was originally posted in Public Interest Alberta's the Advocate

I was in Ottawa on February 19th when the pro-pipeline, anti-immigrant, and ultra-conservative “United We Roll” convoy arrived from their drive across the Prairies. But unlike these yellow-vest clad Albertans, I was there for a youth-run climate convergence called Powershift, where we had just finished crafting a very different plan for jobs and our collective future than the one being hawked by the convoy participants. As young people facing down not just worsening climate change, but worsening economic inequality, racism, and labour precarity too, we know we need climate change solutions that also uphold Indigenous rights, protect workers, and build stronger communities. So, we had spent much of the convergence talking about how to bring the concept of a Green New Deal – an ambitious and equality-minded climate policy package that has been gaining ground in the United States – north of the border.

While the United We Roll convoy was much smaller in number than initially reported (about 50 rather than 2000 trucks showed up) I know their concerns about Alberta’s flagging oil industry are not in the minority in this province. Left unaddressed by our governments, I really worry for the potential for the hateful elements of groups like Canada’s Yellow Vests to grow stronger.

Ultimately, the young people crafting a Green New Deal at Powershift have a lot in common with the folks who participated in the convoy. We worry about finding jobs that can sustain us, and about governments and corporations who do not seem to care about our struggles. But unlike the Canadian Yellow Vest movement, we see increasing automation and an international move away from oil and know that further expansion and reliance on the oil sands cannot provide us stable jobs. We know climate change is real, already here, and rapidly accelerating. And we know it is impossible for Canada to fulfill its climate commitments while continuing to expand the oil sands by building new pipelines and mines.

So instead of pipelines, we are a calling for a Green New Deal. This means a credible plan to get to 100% renewable energy by 2030, a federal living-wage job guarantee for all, meaningfully implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and the expansion of low-carbon sectors like health care, child care, seniors’ care, public transit, affordable housing, ecological agriculture, oil well reclamation, renewable energy, IT, and education. It also means ending subsidies to the fossil fuel industry and implementing a moratorium on new projects so we can gradually phase away while there is still time.

Obviously, these are lofty proposals. But they seem that way in part because we have never made space to have this conversation in this province. Though Premier Notley has made some modest progress on climate policy, we ultimately need her to tell a different story, that we need to be planning for the world that is moving on from oil, instead of trying to out-conservative the Conservatives at squeezing out as many barrels of oil while we still can. This lack of willingness to make room for a conversation about what a transition could look like has contributed to the fact that adequate climate action continues to be outside of what seems politically possible in this province. But I do think this is a reality we can shift. Whenever I have talked to other Albertans in person about the need to transition, what that transition could look like, and how we can protect workers through it, they are overwhelmingly open to it.

Regardless of the outcome of this upcoming provincial election, the Council of Canadians and our allies across many different social movements will be spending this year making space for this conversation in Alberta and getting a real, just transition to a renewable economy into our political discourse. We will be building connections across labour, migrant justice, Indigenous land defence, and many other struggles by knocking on doors, holding town halls, tabling at community centres, and building a student climate strike movement. Join us!