The Way Ahead

By David Coon

Last Friday, David Alward characterized the efforts of citizens to prevent fracking as gaining a beachhead to defeat his economic agenda. On Saturday he increased the rhetoric, asking us to choose between chaos and the rule of law in next year's election. Seriously?

David Alward's plan to increase our economic dependence on the oil and gas sector is out of step with the times. In the face of the inevitable consequences of fracking for people and the environment, set against the back drop of the deepening climate crisis, it's an economic strategy based on plunder and pollution. Growing numbers of New Brunswickers are saying no more. We've seen that movie and we're not going to rerun it again.

The Green Party's vision is to build a new green economy, a vision shared by many New Brunswickers. There is real work to do, to build a sustainable New Brunswick that provides a lasting and shared prosperity for all, from an economy that is environmentally sustainable and socially just. That is why the Green Party appeared on the provincial political scene four years ago.

The Green Party's vision for New Brunswick is to build an economy around sustainable green jobs, the seeds of which already exist in New Brunswick today. We see these the jobs in organic agriculture and local food, in smart grid technology, in education and training, in the ICT sector, in clean tech manufacturing, in renewable energy and energy efficiency, and in sustainable forest products. These are the economic sectors that will provide the jobs we need to live well.

Imagine pantries filled with local organic food; building materials produced without clearcutting; homes which cost a pittance to heat; thousands of community-based renewable power generators feeding into a smart electrical grid, universally accessible child care in every school, a convenient system of public transportation, community health centres staffed by collaborative care teams working with family doctors; a vibrant local arts and cultural scene; and reconciliation with First Nations so we can travel the path to sustainability together.    

This new green economy can provide decent satisfying livelihoods for all, enabling people to thrive in vibrant communities. It will be built around enterprises that work with our communities to advance the public good. Small and medium-sized businesses, cooperatives and social enterprises will be its foundation. The financial capital to start or expand these enterprises will come from money invested locally in community bonds and local investment funds.

How do we build this new green economy? We must explicitly choose the exit ramp for the road that leads to sustainability and fairness. Caring and sharing must be its road bed.

We can begin with an import replacement strategy that identifies what we can produce and provide in New Brunswick, rather than sending our money out of the province to acquire goods and services. Buying goods and sourcing services locally keeps money circulating in our economy, creating jobs here ,rather than elsewhere.

The movement toward building a local food system is an example of import replacement. Everyday acts of grocery shopping and eating dinner create jobs throughout New Brunswick when the food is produced locally.  Heating our homes with wood pellet burners and heat pumps manufactured in New Brunswick could be the norm, powered by wood and renewable electricity produced right here.

The Green Party embraces new green infrastructure such as NB Power's smart grid.   A smart electricity grid coupled with high speed fibre optics enables the dramatic expansion of renewable electricity generation, creates demand for energy storage technologies, and energizes the demand for electric vehicles. NB Power's expertise would be in demand around the world.

Where would the capital come from to finance this transformation? We would create investment tools such as community bonds and local investment funds designed to slow the flight of wealth from our province, making it available for economic development in our own communities. We see a leadership role for our credit unions and caisse populaires in creating local pools of investment capital.

New public sector investment would flow from an economic transformation fund. It would receive the revenues from a dedicated carbon surcharge on the oil, coal and natural gas imported into the province. A special levy on the property taxes paid by big box stores would also support the fund. Significantly increased resource royalties would be paid into a new Resource Legacy Fund, the interest from which would support the economic transformation we seek.

The Green Party has a bold vision for the future of our province. We believe it is a vision that is shared by New Brunswickers who want to be part of a society that chooses caring and sharing, quality of life, and hope as its hallmarks.

David Coon is the Leader of the Green Party of New Brunswick.