Unions, Environmentalists take Redford up on her offer to talk

Blue Green Canada agrees it's time for a serious chat about a real energy strategy

TORONTO, July 25, 2012 /CNW/ - A unique organization that breaks down old fights to find new solutions did something odd today. It said it hopes Alberta Premier Alison Redford's call for a Canadian energy strategy is heard, and the Council of Federation meeting, opening today, marks the start of a real conversation about Canada's energy needs.

Blue Green is Canada's foremost entity to bring unions and environmentalists—often at odds in the past—together. Its goal is to show how good jobs and environmental protection go hand-in-hand, and it served notice it wants to be part of the Canadian energy strategy conversation Redford says she wants.

To show its support, the alliance took out an advertisement in the Halifax Chronicle Herald welcoming the national conversation about energy. In addition to five alliance members, the advertisement has the endorsement of eight additional labour organizations and environmental groups across Canada. 

"We represent workers in the oil industry," said Dave Coles, president of the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union (CEP).  "But we don't want a narrow energy strategy based on the oil industry alone—because there will be too few jobs and too many emissions."

"It's time for a real conversation about an energy plan that works for most Canadians, now and in the future. So I hope the premiers take Premier Redford up on her offer to talk so Canadians can discuss whether rampant growth of the oil patch would accomplish this, or if there isn't a better way."

Coles added that if the premiers hope to forge a strategy that creates good jobs and cuts emissions, labour unions and environmental organizations need to be part of the conversation.

Dr. Rick Smith, executive director of Environmental Defence, agrees. He said the false fight between jobs and the environment is as silly as the oil industry's attempt to pit east versus west.

"Whether someone lives in the east or west, they want clean air, clean water and a good job. These are Canadian values and we need a Canadian conversation about how to make that happen. It's a chat the oil industry might not want, but we hope premiers of all stripes see the need."

"Premier Redford is right about the need for a strategy. We do need an energy strategy that cuts emissions, embraces efficiency and gets serious about preparing for a changing world. But she is wrong if she thinks more pipelines and more tar sands are the way to go."

Smith remarked that many provinces like Manitoba, Nova Scotia, Ontario and Quebec have been taking action on renewable energy and energy efficiency. These, he said, should be at the core of any energy strategy.

To Ken Neumann, national director of the United Steelworkers union, the premiers can show the leadership that successive Prime Ministers have failed to deliver.

"In Manitoba, good jobs are created by making buildings more energy efficient, which saves families money.  In Ontario and Nova Scotia, they're creating good jobs by turning off coal and turning on wind and solar power.  These are the kinds of solutions we need to see in a real energy strategy," he said.

Neumann added that solutions like energy efficiency and better public transit also have spin-off economic benefits. In the Greater Toronto Area, for example, traffic congestion has been identified as the number one economic issue. In addition to these opportunities, Neumann stressed the need to hold industries accountable, and ensure polluters pay for any pollution they create.

"We hope the Council of Federation doesn't blow this opportunity. There is a real chance to get businesses, workers and the environment on the same page. But it's a page we can't write if energy discussion is dictated by the oil industry alone, so we hope Premier Redford means what she says because we urgently need a chat about a real energy strategy now," he said.

About Blue Green Canada:

Blue Green Canada is an alliance between Canadian labour unions, environmental groups and civil society organizations. It was founded in 2008 and has been steadily growing since. The alliance plans to ramp up efforts around a real energy strategy for more jobs and fewer emissions this year. More information can be found at www.bluegreencanada.ca.

SOURCE: Blue Green Canada

For further information:

For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact:

In Halifax: Gillian McEachern, Environmental Defence, 416-629-4711
gmceachern@environmentaldefence.ca

Roxanne Dubois, Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union, 613-230-5200 rdubois@cep.ca

Stephanie Kohls, Environmental Defence, 416-323-9521 ext. 232; 647-280-9521 (cell)
skohls@environmentaldefence.ca

Denis St. Pierre, United Steelworkers Union, 416-544-5990 dstpierre@usw.ca


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