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Sunday, September 25, 2022
Op-ed: Action on climate change crucial for Niagara and the world
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Andrea Kaiser

Special to The Lake Report

It is no surprise that as the federal Liberal candidate for our community, I am often asked why I am running for the Liberals.

In 2019, some people seemed surprised that a businessperson like me would run for a progressive political party. However, those that know me and my record on municipal council also know I believe that effective leadership is not only about prioritizing a strong local economy at all costs, but also the well-being of our community and our environment.

These three pillars of sustainability have always underpinned my philosophy of public service, because effectively balancing these imperatives is paramount to achieving a truly prosperous Niagara.

Naturally, you won’t be surprised to learn that my three priorities as the federal Liberal candidate are to continue protecting your health, rebuilding our economy and protecting our environment.

In fact, one of the primary reasons I was inspired to return to politics was my recognition that these three pillars of sustainability had fallen out of balance for too long and as a result, we were on a dangerous path with respect to the devastating impacts of climate change.

As a lifelong Liberal, I was proud of the leadership our federal government demonstrated from 2015-2019 in fighting climate change after 10 years of inaction by Stephen Harper's Conservatives.

The government was bold in implementing Canada’s first national framework to meaningfully address our greenhouse gas emissions, including a price on pollution. That plan would force big industrial emitters to pay for polluting our environment, while putting the money collected from this practice directly into the pockets of Canadians who are doing their part, thereby fuelling our local economies.

At the time, implementing a price on pollution was viewed by many pundits as politically perilous, but our government showed courage in taking this necessary step to fight the devastating impacts of climate. Economists and climate scientists have been clear that a price on pollution is a necessary part of any serious climate plan – and Canada is now recognized around the world as a global leader in implementing this important policy.

Despite the federal Liberals' strong record on fighting climate change from 2015-2019, I decided to run to be our area's MP because I felt we needed to do even more to protect our environment and grow our economy. After all, part of being a progressive is recognizing that better is always possible.

We had to do more because the cost of inaction is just too high. We can no longer ignore the economic costs of inaction on climate nor the cost to our future health well-being as demonstrated by the devastation we have seen from the wildfires in British Columbia, and flooding across Ontario and Quebec.

This is exactly why I was so proud this past December, when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Canada’s strengthened climate plan. It outlines a clear path to get to net-zero emissions by 2050.

As part of this plan, the government has implemented important policies like an electric vehicle buyer’s incentive, plans to phase-out coal-fired electricity, to end internal combustion engine vehicle and truck sales by 2035, to enhance our biodiversity, and a ban on single-use plastics by 2022.

The Canada Greener Homes Grant will help about 700,000 Canadian homeowners improve the energy efficiency of their homes and reduce their energy bills with retrofits. In addition to being a world-leading climate plan, this helps create jobs and grow our economy. There is tremendous economic opportunity in acting to fight climate change and Canada has the skilled workforce necessary to be a global leader.

Shockingly, the Conservatives under Erin O’Toole continue to ignore climate change. At its 2021 national convention, the Conservative Party of Canada voted against recognizing climate change as real … yes, you read that correctly.

At the same time, they’re ignoring the enormous economic potential that exists in building a clean economy. Because of the first-mover advantage created by Canada’s strengthened climate plan, the Ford Motor Company announced a $1.8 billion investment in its Oakville assembly plant to make it a global centre of electric vehicle production, securing 5,400 jobs.

Similarly, General Motors has decided to reopen its Oshawa assembly plant, which will create more than 1,700 jobs. To support the Canada Greener Homes Grant, new jobs are also being created with the recruitment and training of up to 2,000 new energy advisers.

While the progress we are making to fight climate change is impressive, if left unchecked, the impacts will undoubtedly destroy critical industries and in time our local economy.

Talk to any local grape grower or winemaker, they will tell you that increasingly unpredictable and extreme temperature fluctuations may require that we look at growing hardier grapes like they are already doing in France, or ones that are more heat tolerant, like in California. In 2019, Germany’s wine industry was unable to produce an icewine vintage for the first time in history because of the impacts of climate change.

Although the work the federal government has done to build a clean economy is most noteworthy, we need to do more and must ensure that our plan is implemented in a way that protects workers and small businesses.

Unfortunately, our current MP voted against the implementation of much of the important progress we have made. As we build back better from the COVID-19 pandemic, it is time that our community has an MP who prioritizes climate action, instead of standing in its way.

If elected as MP, I will be a defender of our natural environmental treasures – like the Greenbelt, the Niagara Escarpment Biosphere and the Great Lakes – and a champion for good local jobs.

Andrea Kaiser is the federal Liberal candidate for Niagara-on-the-Lake, Niagara Falls and Fort Erie.