January 23: Garden City Provincial Budget Consultation, Garden City Community Centre (725 Kingsbury)
Hannah Muhajarine, on behalf of the Manitoba Energy Justice Coalition
I am speaking on behalf of the Manitoba Energy Justice Coalition— we are an alliance of Manitoban community groups and individual supporters committed to promoting social justice in the energy sector.
The UN IPCC Report has told us that immediate action and investment are needed to reduce emissions to net zero by 2050, and ideally by 45% of 2010 levels in the next ten years.
The Manitoba Climate and Green Plan is completely inadequate to meeting this challenge.
Its main measures are:
-to commits a paltry 25 million to an energy efficiency retrofit for existing homes and commercial buildings,
-to increase the amount of ethanol and biodiesel-based fuels (ethanol to 10%, biodiesel requirement to 5%)
-a $52-million endowment fund for the Growing Outcomes in Watersheds (GROW) Program
-and to eliminate the use of plastic bags
On the other hand, the province continues to defund public transit, though transportation is the second largest emitter in Manitoba at 31%. It has axed MB Carbon Tax, which could provide a pool of funds for sustainable infrastructure, and they have also lowered their emissions target to only 1 megatonne cumulative over a five-year period (again, the IPCC calls for 45% reduction in the next ten years). On top of that, there is nothing holding them accountable if they fail to meet their already-low targets.
MEJC thinks this is unacceptable—the Climate and Green Plan is inadequate and underfunded.
Our recommendations are:
(1) Beyond just changing fuel requirements, the province should no longer subsidize fossil fuel vehicles and associated infrastructure. It should implement fiscal policies that ensure a fair contribution to general revenues from vehicles through tools such as a higher fuel tax, a carbon pollution levy, sales tax, and/or municipal taxes.
Even more importantly, the province should no longer defund cleaner methods of transportation used by lower-income folks, including students like me, like public transit:
It must re-commit to providing ½ of Transit’s operating expenses.
It must provide adequate funds to implement the Winnipeg Transit Master Plan enhanced operating schedule and system
It should support free transit, as Kansas City and many other cities are already doing
And it should adopt the recommendations of its own Expert Advisory Council to provide capital funding for 20 electric buses and charging infrastructure.
(2) Secondly, the province must bring back a Carbon Tax that meets or exceeds the federal backstop and increase the amount of carbon tax revenue that is invested in climate-mitigation beyond the current portion of 10 %. The remaining rebate should be tied to income level, in order to make sure that the transition is not a burden on those who can least afford it, while ensuring that those who can more than afford to pay, pay their fair share.
(3) And lastly, while an energy efficiency retrofit is a good start, 25 million is inadequate. There are approximately 500,000 homes in MB. The cost of a full retrofit has been calculated at about 10,000 dollars a home. 25 million will only retrofit 4.6% of Manitoba residences.
As well as increasing investment in retrofits, in order to make this a just transition, the province should commit to organizing and subsidizing training programs in passive house construction for those in the building professions and trades. Especially good would be funding for a program that targets lower-income and those in need of employment. The transition has the potential to create millions of jobs, according to research supported by the Canadian Labour Congress—jobs the province is currently letting slip through their fingers.
Public investment has a key role to play in fighting climate change—we cannot rely on private industry to implement the changes we need fast enough.
The provincial government must immediately step up and start investing in public services and programs that can support a just transition to a renewable energy economy. This is crucial if Manitoba is to continue to be a healthy and prosperous place to live. Manitobans are listening to international scientists, and we expect our leaders to do the same. Thank you.
What do you think?