Workers must be at the centre of shaping Canada’s ‘Green New Deal’

“..perhaps the biggest and most immediate challenge is to ensure working people get engaged — that Canadians can spot a sham deal, and know a real Green New Deal is focused on improving their lives. Even the most artful federalism and smart policy crafting won’t amount to much if those it aims to benefit don’t want it.”

An idea has been developing. Perhaps three of the biggest threats to our societies – environmental destruction, public austerity and economic inequality – stem from a single problem: a rapacious economic model that assumes everything, including people, is a resource to be consumed. Until there’s no more.

For many, that’s the analysis creating enthusiasm about a Green New Deal. In simplest terms, a Green New Deal is an economic strategy to boost jobs and wages through decarbonizing the economy. But it’s also much more complex, aiming at the core structural problems that got us here.

Recently, NDP leader Jagmeet Singh has been publicly expressing his support for the concept. He’s pledged a federal green retrofit program that would create jobs for trades workers, cut carbon emissions, save people money and improved the quality of our homes lives. He’s promised tax changes on high-wealth Canadians to address inequality and bring in new revenue.

With a federal election this fall, Singh’s policy-designers need to press ahead. But even while there needs to be speed, caution is required if a Green New Deal is to succeed.

Those determined to reverse austerity, inequality and environmental damage need to help Canadians be clear that there’s a huge difference between a Green New Deal and a Green Neoliberal Deal. Something new that reproduces the same old downward pressure on wages, the same tax unfairness, the same lobbyist machine at the heart of the system – and the same bonanza pay-off for investors — is no Green New Deal.

We’ve been living in the neoliberal model for so long it’s easy to forget there are others. From the 1940s to the 1970s, Canadian governments developed a model based on a national economy with social safety nets, high taxes on high incomes and laws supporting workers’ collective bargaining, among other features.

For Green New Dealers, economic structures matter. The results of an economic model – how gains are shared, where investment is targeted – greatly depends on who sets the rules. Green New Deal architects need to bring together the political coalition they need to be the change they want. MORE

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