Blue Green Canada on Parliament Hill

Blue Green Canada's remarks to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Industry, Science, and Technology on the State of Disruptive Technologies

Click here  for a link to the disruptive technology study and activity webpage to review minutes and recordings of committee meetings.  

Good morning Mr. Chair and members of the committee. My name is Jamie Kirkpatrick and I am the Program Manager of the Blue Green Alliance Canada. Blue Green is an alliance of some of the country’s largest labour unions and most influential environmental and civil society organizations. Our purpose is to advocate for working people and the environment by promoting solutions to environmental issues that have positive employment and economic impacts. Our alliance formed based on the realization that a sustainable economy must provide good jobs and protect the environment, not one or the other.

We have produced reports and research showing how good jobs can be created across the country by: making renewable energy, using energy more efficiently, and building more public transit to fight traffic. 

I am pleased to be here today to share the disruptive potential a transition to a green economy can have through clean technologies in Canada.

One prominent part of the clean technology sector, renewable power generation has experienced solid growth in the past decade, despite the global economic crisis and subsequent challenges in the world’s major economies.

Worldwide there are now more than 7.7 million people employed by the clean tech industry. This is an 18 per cent increase from last year’s figure. This growth has occurred despite falling prices for solar photovoltaic (PV) and wind equipment globally. Yet, accelerated solar PV installation and expanded operations and maintenance have spurred job growth.

These jobs are good, green jobs that are being added to the global economy; renewable and clean technology industries are excellent job generators.

In Canada we are seeing some progress on this front. According to the Canadian Clean Technology Industry report issued last month Canada’s clean tech industry directly employs 50,000 people in more than 800 firms. While these figures are impressive unfortunately Canada’s global market share of environmental goods has steadily declined; shrinking by 41% from 2005 to 2013.

We can and must do better for a number of reasons.

Renewable power offers a diverse array of green technologies. From solar to wind to geothermal or run of the river hydro power these zero or near zero carbon emitting forms of power generation all employ skilled workers and greatly reduce negative impacts on the environment. For Canadians to truly benefit from the disruptive potential of clean technologies Canadian economic and environmental policies must also be disrupted.   

The International Energy Agency says the global cost of fossil-fuel subsidies in 2013 was $550 billion ... more than four times the incentives provided for renewable energy.

In Canada, putting all of “our eggs in the oil sands basket” has at least two major negative impacts:

One, it dramatically accelerates Canada’s contribution to global climate change. If oil sands production is allowed to expand as forecast by the industry and government, then in 2020 pollution levels in Alberta—with 11 per cent of Canada’s population—will be approaching pollution levels in the three biggest provinces combined: Ontario, Quebec, and British Columbia—which together have 75 per cent of the population.

Two, the current approach of working to make Canada a fossil fuel energy superpower hinders the real opportunities for renewable power and green technology growth. Canada has at its disposal some of the world’s best solar and wind resource potential and we risk missing an opportunity to be a green energy superpower that exports clean power and green technologies. Solar energy is the largest energy resource on Earth and it is inexhaustible. Advances in energy storage technologies mean the potential for solar power generation is nearly limitless.

The volatility of oil prices means our national economy is vulnerable if too heavily dependent on the oil and gas sector. One recent study predicted 185,000 jobs could be lost this year due to the fluctuating price of a barrel of oil and the glut of oil on the market. It seems like every day there is another announcement of job losses in Alberta’s oil patch.

We don’t see these same issues with renewable power. Despite far less government investment, renewable power continues to grow. At a time with growth in well-paid full time jobs is erratic, clean technology continues to out-perform other industries.     

Blue Green Canada released a report called More Bang for our Buck that found every one million dollars the government invested in support of the oil and gas sector nets two direct jobs while that same one million dollars would lead to 15 jobs in clean technology and renewable power sectors.

Green jobs employ many of the skilled labourers currently employed in more traditional fields. This means that with a little effort, it is possible to transition workers and their skills into green jobs as we phase out of non-renewable resource based employment.

Investments in green technology not only net more jobs per dollar invested they also have the added benefit of helping to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.

Canadian clean technology exports are at the same levels as mining, wood, livestock and processed foods. These are important sectors of the economy and each has a single minister and ministry responsible for their economic stewardship. There is no formal provincial or federal policy for clean and green technologies. To fully capture the benefits of transitioning to a green economy this should change.

Other important components of the clean technology sector include public transit; the growth of hybrid electric and fully electric vehicles; green building designs; smart grids; I could go on but out of respect for the committee and my fellow witness’s time I will refrain from reading a laundry list.

In closing, all of these 21st century clean technologies deserve our attention and we do present and future generations of Canadians a disservice if we continue to treat them as boutique industries rather than crucial parts of our future economy.