Building a green economy

On Saturday, the Green Party of Canada hosted a discussion on the green economy to engage the Kitchener-Waterloo community in the party’s policies and beliefs.

Local candidate Cathy MacLellan was one of the members leading a discussion on how a successful economy can be driven out of environment-friendly practices.

“The cost of action is far, far less than the cost of inaction,” read one of MacLellan’s slides.

Looking at the improvements human societies have made throughout history, MacLellan looked ahead to what she anticipates as the world’s fourth revolution, in which society becomes more resilient while thriving in efficient practices.

“We’ve got to be making [green technology] if we want to know how to improve [it],” said MacLellan, as she believes that Canada needs to take more initiative in producing green technology to be competitive on both the local and international scale.

European countries such as Germany have already proven that investing in energy efficiency has high returns, through creating jobs and new businesses.

“There is tremendous competition in the industry,” said MacLellan.

According to MacLellan entering these markets will provide Canada with cost-savings of efficient products and operations and allow the country to profit from exporting skills and business as an established leader.

MacLellan believes that the first step in moving towards a green economy is for the public to see the necessity of sustainable practices in ensuring a society’s overall resilience. “People at some point have to think about their lives and what’s good or bad,” she said, pointing out that deciding on the morality of green practices is up to the individual and can’t be forced by a party or group.

MacLellan went on to highlight the reasoning behind the green economy and the challenges it faces in its application to real practices.

While the driving force behind a shift to green practices largely remains a concern for future generations, the costs associated with a damage climate are also gaining merit.

“How do you put a price on 0.5 degrees Celsius?” asked MacLellan, presenting the undeniable value of the environment and the difficulty of translating it to economic terms.

The global aspect of the issue was also brought forward in exemplifying Asia, specifically China and India, to be the first regions of the planet to struggle with the direct limitations of resources and the physical environment.

“Internationally we need to be there and playing a role,” said MacLellan on the influence Canada can have to improving environmental practices in other countries.

Acting in an environmentally conscious manner can’t be a practice exclusive to western nations, leaving damages to the environment to continue in other parts of the world. International involvement not only provides Canada the opportunity to prosper as an innovator in producing green technology but will also ensure the health of the environment globally.

“We don’t want the rich enjoying the fruits of the green life,” said MacLellan.

Sharing economic ideas

Regardless of the politics, public support can only be gained through clear communication of a party’s beliefs. Ralph Benmergui, senior advisor to the Green Party of Canada, gave the first keynote presentation and facilitated a workshop on the significance of communicating economic policy.

“Politics is a place where you have to decide why you are a party and what it is you’re trying to tell people,” said Benmergui. “That sounds simplistic but the clarity in which you can do that is what will make the difference.”

Benmergui is experienced in knowing the importance of communication, having worked as a journalist for the CBC before becoming involved in politics.

Benmergui joined the Green Party, having previously been involved with the NDP, after attending their conference in Nova Scotia nearly two years ago.

“I actually feel like I want to be a better person and if a political party could do that for me then I should probably pay attention,” said Benmergui, looking back on the experience.

Translating the Green message beyond environmental concerns to the public is one that he sees as successful.

“We’re number one in Canada right now for people 25 and under,” said Benmergui.

With the economy being driven by the tar sands, according to Benmergui’s take on the current government, Canadians are looking for an alternative.

“For us that our popularity through young people and Canadians in general is that they think that their protesting what’s going on in democracy.”

Educating for new jobs

The role of post-secondary education will take on even more importance in the new economy. Griffin Carpenter, youth critic for the Green Party shadow cabinet, looked at the educational requirements of the future job market.

“[It’s] going to require a lot of retraining and retooling of the work force,” said Carpenter. “There’s going to be a lot of new jobs that will require post-secondary credentials.”

The importance of the federal government to tackle the post-secondary education is apparent as there are concerns that too few students are enrolled in the system. Furthermore, funding the research of green innovation needs to be a priority according to Carpenter.

The strong support from youth for Green policy is a combination of environmental idealism and recognition of the realities of our economy.

“We know that the economy is part of this society so a societal change has to involve the economy in a strong way,” said Carpenter.

“Youth will look at the green party as a party that responds to their idealism, offers practical solutions, also offers them opportunities for themselves in creating a world they can work in.”

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