MURRAY RANKIN: We can all help to build a green economy

By Contributed - Victoria News
Published: June 21, 2013 8:00 AM

We have an abundance of innovative and eco-conscious businesses, organizations and consumers in Victoria.

Our community is at the forefront of the environmental movement in many ways and we are already well on our way to building the local green economy here. But there is so much more to be done.

On June 15, I hosted a forum for green businesses, eco-friendly organizations and eco-savvy consumers called Building the Green Economy. More than 200 people attended to participate in a lively and informative panel discussion, followed by an eco-friendly expo featuring some of the remarkable green businesses and organizations that are part of the green economy here in Victoria.

Coherent economic management must recognize the value of a diversified, decentralized economy, as well as the reality of climate change. Yet every year Canada subsidizes the fossil fuel industry by $1.3 billion, a subsidy that only serves to discourage investment in renewable energy, clean technology and energy-efficiency.

Unfortunately, on a national level, under the Conservative government, we have witnessed unbalanced economic management, the massive overdevelopment of the oil sands and the underdevelopment of other clean energy sectors. We have also seen a complete neglect of initiatives to support a greener economy at the local level. Small- and medium-sized businesses are driving green innovation. Good economic management means knowing how to best support that innovation and when to get out the way.

How can we best support the green economy? How can we provide the most effective incentives for businesses and consumers? These are important questions that warrant thoughtful consultation, particularly in Victoria, which is a true centre for ingenuity. New Democrats are proposing solutions to make sure our children will inherit a fairer, greener and more prosperous Canada, and we are seeking your input to develop the best possible solutions.

Last week’s event was part of that consultation and the response was overwhelming.

My NDP colleague, Peter Julian, MP for Burnaby-New Westminster and Energy and Natural Resources critic, opened with an analysis of the destructive subsidies that the Conservatives are providing to the fossil fuel sector as well as their failure to support green energy.

Jill Doucette of Synergy, which helps small businesses in our region to green their operations, described the opportunities that will come from greening the economy. Teri Hustins, a downtown Victoria retailer for more than 25 years and vice-president of ShopLocal Victoria, spoke passionately about the benefits of a greener economy for a vibrant downtown core.

Nathalie Chambers, a restoration ecologist and advocate for sustainable farmland conservation models, argued convincingly for the benefits of local food sustainability and security, using the examples of her Chef Survival Challenge and the Big Dream Farm Fund.

Eric Denhoff, president and CEO of the Canadian Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Association and board member of the Energy Council of Canada, identified the potential for hydrogen fuel, as well as reinforcing the connection between energy, economics and social justice, an insight he has gained as a board member of Fair Trade Canada. Guy Dauncey, the celebrated author and sustainability advocate, provided 16 specific measures to help undergird the green economy in Victoria.

The choice is clear. We could go on pumping a billion dollars into fossil fuels each year – money this profitable industry doesn’t need. Or we could use that same money to create thousands of green jobs and jumpstart a transition toward lower-emission energies for the future.

Building the green economy is possible and we must learn about the practical steps we can take right away to make it happen.

If you were unable to attend the event, I would very much like to hear any input you wish to provide. Please email me at murray.rankin@parl.gc.ca.