Green economic principles are pragmatic. Thanks to the influence of Green parties around the world, these core principles have been tested. They work.
Central to our policies is understanding that there is no conflict between environment and economy.
A smart economy is one that is resilient. A smart economy is diversified, less vulnerable to global shifts. A smart economy enriches localized value chains, producing more goods and employing more Canadians. According to numerous studies, notably Michael E. Porter’s work at Harvard Business School, the more ambitious environmental standards and regulations are adopted, the more competitive and productive is your economy.
Most Canadians enjoy one of the highest qualities of life of any people in the world. We are blessed with abundant resources and a skilled and educated workforce.
While thanks to a regulated banking system we endured the 2008 financial melt-down better than many other countries, our economic indicators are flat-lining. Our employment picture is relatively stagnant. Youth unemployment is particularly worrying, at double the national level.
We face a serious crisis of lack of productivity. Productivity is a measure of innovation and investment in Research and Development. We are falling far behind the United States for the first time since productivity has been measured.
Since the 1970s, our economy has shifted from a majority of our exports being manufactured goods to our current majority of exports being unprocessed raw materials. With this shift, we have lost Canadian jobs in ‘value-added’ but we have also lost ground in productivity. Raw resource production as a sector invests far less in Research and Development and innovation than manufacturing.
During the era of the Harper Conservatives, government policy supported ever-increasing exports of raw material. Value-added was ignored and our economy was skewed towards the export of raw bitumen. Since 2015, the Liberals have continued this push for fossil fuel infrastructure most notably in subsidizing the Trans Mountain pipeline. Putting all our eggs in the bitumen basket was never good economic policy. The low price for a barrel of oil makes this more transparent, but even if oil prices rebound to historic highs, the threat to Canada’s productivity remains a real drag on our economic health.
“Productivity may not be everything, but in the long run, it is almost everything.”
Paul Krugman, Nobel Prize winning economist
Canadians are also among the most overworked citizens in the industrialized world. A report from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) states that the richest 10% of Canadians are the only ones not working longer hours. The report concludes that, despite being better educated and working harder, Canadian families are now “running faster just to stay put and the bottom half is actually falling behind.”
It is essential that we become far more creative in reducing our unbalanced dependence on trade with U.S., and that we significantly invest in a National Clean Tech/Energy program to remain price competitive and sanction-free. And finally, that we conserve natural resources and invest more in long-term education and re-training.
This generation has the potential to capitalize on the single biggest business opportunity in human history: the shift to a post-fossil fuel economy. Whether this is driven by the need to end the recession through economic stimulus, high energy extraction costs, or collapsing oil prices, strategic geopolitical threats to foreign oil, the climate crisis, or all of them combined, the country that mobilizes resources to develop and commercialize smarter technologies (e.g. alternate fuels, renewable energy, and energy efficiency) will survive and thrive.
Canada should be that country.