The Ontario government has decided to combat the recession as well as climate change by introducing a piece of legislation aimed at creating new jobs and decreasing the province’s dependence on non-renewable energy sources.
The Green Energy Act was announced last week and intends on spending up to $5 billion to promote the development of renewable energy and create upwards of 50,000 jobs over three years.
“Our goal is to create a good environment and protect people’s health,” Khalil Ramal, Liberal Member of Provincial Parliament for London-Fanshawe said, adding investments made into renewable energy sources and infrastructure will aid in getting Canadians out of the current recession.
Jennifer Foulds, spokesperson for Environmental Defence — a Canadian environmental organization — agreed. She said with the number of Ontario manufacturers currently out of work, the Green Energy Act offers the province a chance to take a leadership role and help get the unemployed back to work.
“We hope the Green Energy Act is a starting point and will help the whole manufacturing sector grow,” Foulds said.
“I think it will go a long way to get us out of the recession. A green stimulus will create long term jobs because [the jobs] will tackle climate change, an issue that isn’t likely to go away.”
The bill proposes the province rely more on wind and solar power rather than carbon and fossil fuels to limit Ontario’s contribution to global warming. To meet the potential grid demands, more solar panels and wind turbines will need to be constructed, opening the opportunity for increased manufacturing.
Ramal added new job opportunities will arise in many sectors of the economy, including the finance, engineering and construction industries and will hopefully offer future graduates more career options.
However, not everyone is as enthusiastic about the bill.
Bruce Cox, executive director for Greenpeace Canada, believes the act is a step in the right direction, but said the province has failed to address the potential environmental risk nuclear power still presents.
“We want to see the province faze out the use of old reactors and have them replaced with actual green energy sources,” Cox explained.
He added about 50 per cent of the province’s energy is derived from nuclear power and though it is considered a renewable energy source, the environmental implications of improperly disposed nuclear waste and reactors running past their prime is a serious concern.
“There are safety concerns when reactors run past their due date and [the current reactors] are going to have to be replaced or shut down. We are very concerned the government may choose to just build new ones,” Cox said.
Ramal insisted the government’s goal is to reduce dependence on nuclear power to 15 per cent but admitted the bill is not going to cover every angle at its inception.
“We are determined to pass this bill but are still open to suggestions,” Ramal added. “It is our duty as elected officials to help our province and be part of a global movement to create stability.”
Despite his criticism, Cox said he wants to give the province a chance to revise the bill and remains hopeful for the future of Ontario.
“They may seem like small things but that’s how we’re going to solve climate change, with a thousand small acts that lead to big change.”