Jobs, Economy and Environment

Transport – Real Alternatives for a Green Economy

April 23, 2015

About the Green Economy Network

Imagine environmental groups, labour organi­zations and social justice and youth movements working together to find real solutions to tackle climate change. Wouldn’t that be cool? Well, that’s exactly what the Green Economy Network is. Spurred by Canada’s failure to take action to move toward an authentic green economy, leaders of more than twenty prominent groups formed GEN to push for a fundamental transformation of our industrial economy. Good green jobs are being created and can be further created in Canada to cut carbon emissions and develop true alter­natives to the old ways of working. GEN is now at the forefront of a new social movement striving for a low-carbon, prosperous and just future for all Canadians.   

Better public transit for all Canadians  

GEN has a comprehensive plan to address the current needs of public transit systems across the country and develop high speed rail travel between the nation’s most populous urban centres and along its busiest routes. This plan includes:

  • $53.5 billion for Canadian municipal public transit systems’ capital costs over a five-year investment period starting as soon as possible
  • Of this, $17.6 billion (33 per cent of the funding) does not fit within existing funding plans. It would require new funding from provincial and federal  governments.
  • $25.7 billion to design and build three key high speed rail (HSR) projects. Of this figure, roughly $20 billion would go towards building the Québec City-Windsor high speed rail corridor; $3.7 billion would go towards a HSR link between Calgary and Edmonton; and $2 billion would go towards a high speed link between Vancouver and Seattle.

We need strong domestic content rules, as used by other countries (including our “free trade” partners) to ensure that our green transport initiatives create good jobs – that will also help generate the tax revenues to pay for these essential investments. We need industry policies that allow all segments of our communities to benefit.

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Canada is overdue to upgrade its inter-city rail infrastructure to bring it into the twenty-first century. Likewise, upgraded and expanded public transit systems can have substantial environmental and job-creation benefits. 

Canadians need a stronger and more comprehensive plan to develop and expand public transit. Currently, provincial and federal governments help municipalities pay for capital projects in public transportation. However, municipal governments still end up bearing the brunt of the combined operations and capital costs. We all share the benefits; it’s important to share the load. 

Moving the transportation sector to clean, green and cool

Real initiatives – Public transit and inter-urban rail

Tackling climate change will mean that we need to reduce our emissions and change the way we move people and things from one place to another. Right now, the transportation sector accounts for 24 to 28 per cent of Canada’s annual greenhouse gas emissions.

We are, as a civilization, addicted to oil.  We rely way too much on big, dirty oil. The petroleum corporations and cartels are destroying our environment and hurting other sectors of the economy. Building real alternatives to big, dirty oil is necessary and urgent.

  • We need to create thousands of quality jobs while fighting climate change. 
  • We need a just transition plan to a low carbon economy now.
  • Can we take on this challenge? Of course we can!
  • A green economy is more than an idea. There are lots of examples and transit 
  • success stories all over the world. In fact, Canada is the only OECD country not 
  • to provide consistent transit funding.

There is no question – we need more public transit and inter-urban rail to ensure that the future transportation needs of Canadians are met while providing both jobs for today and a clean planet for tomorrow.

Real initiatives in Canada and elsewhere

Domestic content = Jobs here in Canada

Public ownership and management of municipal transit and domestic content rules are essential to ensure that Canadian communities and Canadian workers reap the benefits. The provincial government of Québec has focused on local job creation linked to public transit development by putting in place a 60 per cent minimum domestic content requirement. Local company Bombardier recently won a $980 million contract to build 468 new subway cars. 775 new good jobs will be created at home in Québec from this public transit initiative. 

By keeping the work in Ontario, the Toronto Transit Commission’s (TTC) decision in 2006 to buy 234 subway cars manufactured at the Bombardier plant in Thunder Bay created 500-600 good local jobs. 750 workers at the Bombardier plant in Thunder Bay kept their jobs and 300 other jobs were added at the factory when the TTC purchased 204 new streetcars in 2008. 

Top priority: High speed rail

Many studies have demonstrated the feasibility and practicality of implementing high speed rail lines in Canada in major corridors, such as Windsor-Toronto-Montreal-Québec City, Calgary-Edmonton, and Vancouver-Seattle.

So far, $0 have been spent by the provinces and the federal government for this important initiative. Canada isn’t even trying. We can do better. A high speed rail network in Canada would change the face of transportation in Canada, would reduce greenhouse gases that cause climate change, would create more than 100,000 person job years, and would help bring Canada up to speed with other progressive countries where extensive high speed rail service is the norm.

And it’s not just high speed rail. Upgrading passenger rail service across the country, even where traffic density doesn’t support high-speed rail, will get more people out of cars, improve service to communities and cut greenhouse gas emission.

In the City of Ottawa:Measuring the overall impact

We need to constantly show the positive impacts of what we are proposing, and show the importance of measurement and indicators. Here is one example. The City of Ottawa recently approved plans for an $1.74 billion extension to the city’s light rail network. The city has generated particularly detailed estimates of the economic benefits this project should incur, including: 

  1. Jobs. 20,000 person-years of employment during construction.
  2. Economy. $3.2 billion in output from construction alone, $100 million in operating savings at OC Transpo starting in 2019, and $144 million in tax revenue.
  3. Spending less on cars. $600 million in vehicle operating savings and $217 million in accident avoidance savings. 
  4. Users of public transit. Increase in the ridership by nine per cent, remove over half of the buses from the downtown core, and reduce 15 minutes on average from the regular daily commute.
  5. Environment. 38,000 tonnes of greenhouse gases and 1,750 tonnes of other air contaminants will be cut each year, which is the equivalent to removing 7,300 mid-sized cars from the road each year.

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