Creating Canada’s green economy: Interview with Will Amos

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Our Environment by Katharine Fletcher

In my last column, I invited Will Amos, Pontiac Liberal Member of Parliament (MP), to respond to how we can create incentives for a greener regional economy. Here’s our interview:


Our Environment by Katharine Fletcher

In my last column, I invited Will Amos, Pontiac Liberal Member of Parliament (MP), to respond to how we can create incentives for a greener regional economy. Here’s our interview:

KF: The federal riding of Pontiac comprises more than 30,000 km2, incorporating several Gatineau communities and over 40 rural municipalities in three MRCs. It’s a diverse population, but I wager everyone wants to combat climate change. How can we best do this?
WA: By each taking steps, together we can bend the climate change curve. Our government is leading with a carbon-pollution price, clean-fuel standard, and phasing out coal power. But citizens must be, and advocate for, the change they wish to see. It’s about much more than recycling. It’s about choosing reusable materials instead of single-use throwaway products. It’s about energy retrofits, shopping local, and supporting regional farmers. It’s about local tourism, ridesharing, public transit and shifting to electric vehicles with our government incentives. Choices will be different for everyone, but cumulatively, changed habits make a difference.
One major project that would achieve a “whole-of-region” impact on climate and productivity is the proposed integration of Ottawa’s light rail into the west of Gatineau. We need to link our cities and rural areas more efficiently.
Also, Canada funds the Federation of Canadian Municipalities with nearly $1 billion to finance green, climate-related projects. Whether it’s to finance
the design of an ultra-efficient town hall in La Pêche, the expansion of Chelsea’s active transit trails, or Pontiac’s flood-related infrastructure asset management, these historic federal investments help us live in cleaner, healthier communities.
KF: Your recent announcement regarding banning single-use plastics is interesting. Do you see any economic opportunity for Pontiac here? Plant-based cellulose, for example, can be made into products resembling plastics (from film to insulating foam for packaging materials). Could Pontiac be a player in developing this industry?
WA: It’s hard to predict private-sector decisions about where investments will be made. But markets will shift with our comprehensive approach to achieve zero-plastic waste by 2030, keeping plastic in our economy and out of
the environment. Canada’s plan goes well beyond a ban on six single-use plastics (e.g. straws, cutlery), by increasing national recycling rates and recycled content standards, and making plastic producers — not the public — responsible for collection and recycling costs. We are making important regulatory changes, and I support the cleantech business opportunities that emerge as a consequence, in Pontiac and across Canada.
KF: During this pandemic, I applaud the creation of a Task Force for a Resilient Recovery (recoverytaskforce.ca). Do some of their recommendations directly affect our region?
WA: As we maintain our laser-like focus on COVID-19 health and economic issues, we cannot fall victim to the “tragedy of the horizon” by losing sight of another global
crisis — climate change. There is no vaccine for climate change, so our recovery plan must reflect that.
The top-four recommendations of this independent Recovery Task Force are priorities for major investment by our government, and each has positive implications for Pontiac: 1) Invest in climate-resilient and energy efficient buildings — watch for new federal building renovation incentives; 2) Production and adoption of zero-emission vehicles — two huge recent announcements with Ford/Fiat-Chrysler will enable Canadian-built electric cars; 3) Growing Canada’s clean energy sectors — we have already doubled cleantech and clean energy investments since 2015, with more to come; and 4) Invest in the nature that protects and sustains us.
Nature conservation certainly has local application. In 2018 we invested more in protected areas than any government in Canadian history ($1.3 billion over
5 years), and Pontiac is benefitting with $300,000 going towards riparian
protection of the Noire and Coulonge Rivers. This regional conservation would not have occurred without federal funds. Same goes for the Nature Conservancy Canada projects we financed in Bristol and L’Isle-aux-Allumettes. And remember, this also helps mitigate flood risks.