Laurie Simmonds, president and CEO of Green Living Enterprises, asks voters who care about healthier communities, green jobs and cleaner electricity generation to do their homework before they head to the polls. The view expressed is her own.
Is the green economy important to Ontario’s future? That’s a question that I am particularly focused on as we head into the final day of a provincial election campaign. It’s also a key question facing Ontario voters. Who will help us build healthier communities, with good jobs for this generation and the next?
In the last 5 years, I have witnessed a staggering growth of green businesses in Ontario. I have also watched the launch of many new environmental science and technology programs designed to fill the skilled labour demands of this sector. Ontario’s colleges have been at the forefront, with 35 new diploma or certificate programs launched in the past three years — 14 new ones in the last year.
But the case for a green economy isn’t just anecdotal. A recent Harvard Business Review article argues that “sustainability is an emerging business megatrend, like electrification and mass production, that will profoundly affect companies’ competitiveness and even their survival.” And the numbers bear them out: despite the challenging economic environment, clean energy finance and investment in the G-20 countries totaled almost $200 billion in 2010, up a third from the year before.
That investment is happening at every level of the economy. Every year I see the on-the-ground investment that Ontario businesses are making in green enterprise, from small part-time businesses to large plants with significant investments in technology and manufacturing. Ontario business owners are investing their hard-earned cash in their green ventures, hoping to position themselves to take advantage of this megatrend. After all, what happened to businesses in the past that ignored those other megatrends of electrification and mass production? They failed.
And so the question as we head into this election becomes, which party offers us the best developed plan to ensure that Ontario is positioned to take full advantage of this sustainability megatrend? It clearly is not the Conservatives, who have derided green investment at every turn, pledging to end the feed-in tariffs for green energy and repeal (parts of) the Green Energy Act.
And while the NDP has traditionally been seen as supportive to environmental issues, they have announced that they will curtail private sector investment in the green energy sector. It is a bizarre stance by the NDP, to throttle the flow of private sector funding just as investors are finally acknowledging the opportunities in this field.
Only the Liberals have detailed a plan that would see continued public sector investment and private sector partnership in green energy and significant investments in clean transportation. It is a plan that would position Ontario to become a North American leader in the development of a green economy, building healthier communities with high-quality jobs for this generation and the next.
Think it’s a pipe dream? Take a look at Germany. Of all of the EU countries, Germany has made the most sustained investments in green energy and other environmentally positive initiatives, building its green economic base with public and private investment. As the EU teeters, which economy remains rock solid? Germany’s.
But don’t take my word for it. Do your homework as you consider your vote. Both the Pembina Institute and GreenProsperity.ca have analyzed the party platforms from an environmental point of view. You’ll find their ratings online. Read up. And then cast your vote for the party you believe will position Ontario for a sustainable future.