A $27-billion energy retrofit program, stepped-up investment in green electricity, and building an “industrial ecosystem” for zero-emission vehicles are lead elements of a five-year, $55.4-billion green investment program released Wednesday by the 15-member Task Force for a Resilient Recovery.
The report, published just a week before the Speech from the Throne September 23, captures a moment when many of the world’s governments are deciding their next steps as they move beyond the health care support and immediate economic relief dictated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Countries are now setting their sights on the longer-term horizon and determining how to drive an economic recovery,” the report states. “A number of historic green stimulus announcements, particularly in Europe and Asia, show positive signs that the recovery will support urgent climate goals and the growth of a low-carbon economy.”
For the federal government, the group of finance, policy, and sustainability leaders adds, the question is how to “foster a recovery that gets Canadians back to work while ensuring our country is competitive, prosperous, and climate-resilient in the clean economy of the 21st century.”
The “five overarching bold moves” in the report include:
• $27.25 billion for climate-resilient, energy-efficient buildings, including retrofit financing, training for a “diverse green building work force”, demonstrations of large-scale, standardized retrofits, building code updates, and creation of an Indigenous Infrastructure Fund;
• $7 billion to “jump-start Canada’s production and adoption of zero-emission vehicles”, including industrial development, a ZEV mandate for all vehicle classes, and efforts to “kick-start” ZEV adoption and get charging infrastructure in place;
• $11.5 billion for investments in “clean, robust power grids” next-generation energy solutions, Indigenous clean energy, and low-carbon hydrogen;
• $4.65 billion for nature-based climate solutions, ecosystem restoration, and Indigenous reconciliation;
• $5 billion to invest in “clean competitiveness”, advanced skills and infrastructure, and climate fairness.
CBC notes that the task force’s largest recommended line item is energy retrofits, where “the investment would boost the country’s largest private sector industry by creating construction jobs, while also tackling the 13% portion of Canada’s carbon emissions that comes from buildings” and reducing household energy bills.
“That’s where you get the most jobs with the least amount of public investment,” said task force member and Ivey Foundation President Bruce Lourie.
The national broadcaster adds that the 15-member task force included Gerald Butts, former principal secretary to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, as well as past advisors to British Columbia Premier John Horgan and Ontario Premier Doug Ford.
Lourie said many of the recommendations in the task force report are “so straightforward” that he couldn’t see why the government wouldn’t adopt them. Over the last week to 10 days, however, there’s been mounting concern the Throne Speech will de-emphasize green recovery measures in favour of a more direct response to the pandemic.
“Canadians still feel very much in the middle of the crisis,” Butts said earlier this week, and “it’s vitally important that when people are feeling as anxious as they are feeling right now, we start the solutions from where they are and build up from there. And not arrive in the middle of their anxiety with a pre-existing solution that was developed and determined before the crisis.”