A Green New Deal for Canada?

Past is prologue?

It’s happening. Or it is in the US, at least. Ok, there are signs that it might possibly happen…

Newly elected democrat Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is pushing the new democratic-run congress to draft concrete plans for a new Green New Deal. Not only did she make it part of her dynamic and youth-oriented election platform, but she is standing resolutely by the idea and getting in fights over it with senior democrats. 

Her winning those fights is critical to life on Earth.

What was the original New Deal? It was a series of economic reforms enacted in the USA to get out of the Great Depression, otherwise known as the “Dirty Thirties.” And it worked. Those reforms were largely focused on getting people back to work, and shifting the economy.

According to History.com;

On March 4, 1933, during the bleakest days of the Great Depression, newly elected President Franklin D. Roosevelt delivered his first inaugural address before 100,000 people on Washington’s Capitol Plaza.

“First of all,” he said, “let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

He promised that he would act swiftly to face the “dark realities of the moment” and assured Americans that he would “wage a war against the emergency” just as though “we were in fact invaded by a foreign foe.”

Sounds apt for this situation we are in regarding climate change. But we have not heard anything like this from many politicians until the last few months.

So, what is a green New Deal? According to Ocasio-Cortez’s website, it is a Plan to,

… transition of the United States economy to become carbon neutral and to significantly draw down and capture greenhouse gases from the atmosphere and oceans and to promote economic and environmental justice and equality.

This sounds promising. The idea is not new. Thomas Friedman takes credit for the idea in 2007, but it is certainly visible as early as 2006 in Plan B 2.0, by Lester R. Brown, where he calls for a “wartime mobilization.” But it is finally finding legs in a world that needs it. The recent UN climate Report, the one which has generated so much attention by saying that we have 12 years to change course (the topic of a post yet to come), has also called for a New Deal – complete economic reform and overhaul of the global economy.

It is the only real solution, although there are many possibilities for its specific form. 

What about Canada? Can we look forward to this? Well, let’s look at the past. Canada is generally less likely to make radical policy shifts. For instance – we never embraced the New Deal in the thirties. Instead it’s a sad and interesting history of tepid measures and too-late solutions. The conservative government in power, under Prime Minister Bennett, held the course economically until 1935, as they watched the nation suffer. This led to broad discontent, and the birth of a number of smaller start-up parties offering solutions.

Finally, in 1935, late in his term and leading up to what was predicted to be a disastrous election for Bennett, he announced a “New Deal” program for Canadians. He did try to implement some measures at the last minute, but they were found to be unconstitutional. The new parties took votes from Bennett, not the liberals, Bennett lost, and the liberal party filed his New Deal in the trashcan. Canada effectively stayed in a depression until entering WWII in 1939.

Where would a New Deal come from in Canada? We already had a young leader sweep an old party and the country on a progressive platform. He just bought a pipeline. Does it come from the NDP? Maybe. Does the Green Party sweep to power? A new climate party? Hm. 

Or does it come from a broad coalition of young and progressive candidates and members of all parties who simply want a future?

The fact is – people are sick of the lies re climate change. Saying it’s an issue but then doing nothing is the same as denying it, or worse. There is a huge sleeping electorate waiting for candidates who will do something, as Ocasio-Cortez has shown. 

Can we get it right this time?

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