ADAM OLSEN -- This group's work is a prime example of both "shovel ready" and "shovel worthy" work that could create jobs in all corners of the province
Over the past two weeks my B.C. Green Caucus colleague Sonia Furstenau and I have been asking the government questions about their $1.5 billion COVID-19 economic recovery plans.
We asked about support for the tourism and hospitality sector, funding for youth employment programs, supporting B.C. based manufacturing by strengthening local supply chains, water sustainability and groundwater licensing, the importance of carbon pricing as a signal to the market for the direction of the future of our economy, and the need for a substantial investment in Clean BC initiatives as a foundation for our recovery.
Minister's have stood and consistently stated their commitment to Clean BC and investing in a more sustainable economy. We appreciate those verbal commitments and that is why Sonia ended our questioning in Question Period this week by asking if the Minister of Finance, Hon. Carole James, was willing to them back up with substantive action by investing $500 million in CleanBC related initiatives.
We have outlined clearly to the government numerous opportunities that will spur economic growth in communities and clean industries across the province. Some of those ideas are highlighted in the media release which following the end of this commentary.
In terms of what we have seen so far there is ample room to criticize the missed opportunity to develop a robust program to provide many more than 500 jobs to the nearly 150,000 youth (15-29 years-old) who are out of work due to COVID-19.
There is a shocking 29% unemployment in that demographic, so clearly, it's an area that requires prompt action. The B.C. Green Caucus put forward the idea many weeks ago to employ out-of-work youth in environmental remediation, tree planning and conservation programs. Unfortunately, the summer is nearly half over and many youth continue to sit idle.
As the summer slips by let’s not keeping missing opportunities.
Why not lean into another idea the B.C. Green Caucus has supported for many years - the work of the Fish Passage Technical Working Group.
The working group consists of representatives from multiple Ministry's and over the past decade they have diligently identified tens of thousands of infrastructure deficiencies, such as poorly designed logging roads and culverts, that have blocked fish from reaching their spawning grounds.
The Working Group has a comparatively paltry budget of $1,000,000 per year which only enables them to address a handful of projects each budget cycle. However, they have been completing the design work on many more in case they are the beneficiaries of a budget increase.
This group's work is a prime example of both "shovel ready" and "shovel worthy" work that could create jobs in all corners of the province as well as restore critical salmon habitat.
Among the many ideas we have put forward, this one should not be missed. It is entirely consistent with the values the government has stated is informing their decisions, it aligns with the important work we did on the Wild Salmon Advisory Council, and enhances the investment the federal and provincial government has already made in the B.C. Salmon Restoration and Innovation Fund.
There is another opportunity is in Saanich North and the Islands and it also covers multiple Ministry's and priorities in a green recovery. For many years work has been underway to complete the Salish Sea Trail Network. Completing cycling infrastructure on the Fulford-Ganges road on Salt Spring Island is one of the last sections in a series of trails that loop through more than a dozen ridings in the Capital and Cowichan Valley Regional Districts.
Not only are there benefits to, increasing safety for pedestrian and cycling commuters on Salt Spring Island, helping achieve more active transportation options and reducing the greenhouse gas emissions in the transportation network, and encouraging people to invest in e-bike technology that is already growing in popularity, but this investment will also support the tourism and hospitality businesses across Southern Vancouver Island over the long term.
We appreciate the verbal commitments to creating a more sustainable economy and look forward to those becoming the actions of a forward-looking government interested in hastening the transition away from the sun-setting fossil fuel industry.
MEDIA RELEASE ... July 15th
Of B.C.’s $1.5 billion COVID-19 economic recovery package no less than $500 million should go towards CleanBC programs that will create clean jobs in low-carbon industries, getting British Columbians back to work in the short-term and providing sustainable job security in the long-term.
“CleanBC can be a big part of delivering the jobs B.C. needs now, over the next 6-12 months and in years to come,” said Adam Olsen, B.C. Green Party interim leader and MLA for Saanich-North and the Islands. “We need to be making investments in the right types of jobs, green jobs, right now. This is happening in other jurisdictions - why not in B.C.?”
Yesterday the Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy reiterated this government’s verbal commitment to double down on ensuring CleanBC and climate action will be at heart of economic recovery. Last week, the Minister of Jobs, Economic Development and Competitiveness was asked if the Ministry is developing a concrete proposal to use CleanBC as an economic driver to build resiliency in B.C.'s supply chains with the Minister’s answer, in short, being yes.
“Verbal commitments are nice, but actions will speak louder than words. Investing $500 million in CleanBC would jump start our recovery and accelerate our transition to a sustainable economy,” said B.C. Green MLA Sonia Furstenau for Cowichan Valley. “Advancing a Green Recovery now means getting back to work by building a better future for our kids.”
CleanBC investments include everything from: building retrofits, electrification of transport, local food security and systems, habitat restoration, IT expansion and increased connectivity, and much more. The jobs created through CleanBC programs require a diverse range of skill sets, training and education, from entry level to advanced expertise. It is also an important tool in delivering upon our commitments under DRIPA to support First Nation lead and owned economic development opportunities.
Within the sectors that have the most potential to create clean jobs - energy, agriculture, design, tech, tourism, transport - there are opportunities in sales, manufacturing, construction, marketing, engineering, project management, and direct services. These are not exclusive sectors; by investing in CleanBC, the government can lay the foundation for innovative and resilient job options.
“As a caucus we are meeting with experts and stakeholders to ensure that the strongest policies and solutions are put forward,” said MLA Olsen. “There is a growing consensus that now is the time to actively invest in CleanBC; supporting fossil fuel projects is short-sighted and costly. Investing no less than $500 million into CleanBC and committing to a Green Recovery will strengthen B.C.’s economy, create tens of thousands of new jobs and help protect the best interests of British Columbians now and well into the future.”