The Honorable Jonathan Wilkinson addresses the Oakville Chamber of Commerce


The honorable Jonathan Wilkinson, Minister of Environment and Climate Change spoke with the Oakville Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday April 27 about Canada’s plans to address environmental challenges and the impact of those plans on Canadian businesses and the economy as a whole.

Jonathan Wilkinson is a Rhodes Scholar and former cleantech entrepreneur and has worked extensively in the private and government sectors. Raised in Saskatchewan, he now resides in North Vancouver and represents that constituency in Parliament.

Mr. Wilkinson spoke engagingly and optimistically about Canada’s role in joining the international effort to meet the challenges of a changing climate. He also answered questions from former Oakville Chamber of Commerce president Tim Caddigan.

Citing Canada’s commitments to Paris Agreement on climate change, Wilkinson made a point of emphasizing that, like many other countries, Canada recognizes these commitments as the minimum that any country must adhere to. If all countries honor only their commitments under the agreement, global average annual temperatures are expected to rise by 3.5 degrees, which he said would be “catastrophic.”

Canada recently announced its commitment to reduce its net greenhouse gas emissions by 40-45% by 2030 with a view to achieving net zero (where all of these emissions are either eliminated, captured or offset by increases of natural sequestration) by 2050.

This level of reduction is lower than that committed by our main trading partner, the United States, and lower than that of many other large countries such as the United Kingdom and Germany. The difference recognizes the link between the Canadian economy and the extraction of energy resources like oil and natural gas, which are reflected in Canada’s scorecard even though they may be exported in response to demand from other countries. .

Mr. Wilkinson pointed out that in doing so, Canada is taking the lead in the world. More than 190 countries have signed the Paris Agreement and many other advanced economies have set targets to significantly exceed it. Global capital is evolving rapidly to finance the green transition. The needs of a clean economy will drive economic demand, and Canada must participate to thrive in this rapidly changing environment.

Canada is well positioned to do so, as it is home to many of the raw materials that the green economy needs and a highly educated and innovative population. “We all have a common interest in this,” and Canada must adapt to prosper while doing its part.

The goal of Canada’s climate plan is to achieve net zero while providing certainty for business and clarity for investors, to ensure that the country has the information it needs to respond effectively. so that Canada can prosper economically and take full advantage of the opportunities that this presents.

This is such a critical phase in preparing Canada for the future that Wilkinson and his department have worked to produce what they believe to be “the most detailed, clear and concrete plan.” to switch to the green economy everywhere ”. The plan, he said, is designed to meet and exceed the targets that have been set while stimulating economic growth.

Despite his background in the private sector, Wilkinson made it clear that government has an important role to play in helping industry and consumers see future opportunities and position themselves to lead the Canadian economy to prosperity during the transition. According to him, the plan is a “blueprint for an economy of the future while doing our part in the face of a global environmental crisis”.

$ 17.6 billion has been committed to green jobs through incentives for home improvement, transportation and methane reduction. Canadian citizens contribute to greenhouse gases in large part through their transportation and housing needs. There will be subsidies for zero emission vehicles and subsidies for public transit. There is also a clear path to deal with the impact of large industrial emitters.

Outgoing House Speaker Tim Caddigan did not answer his questions. Why, he asked, should we have confidence in these plans when all governments for several years have set targets far lower than these and failed them?

Mr. Wilkinson admitted that the proof would lie in the pudding. He highlighted the government’s significant accomplishments so far, including investing $ 5 billion in the Net Zero Accelerator fund for projects like the one that helped Ford Motor Company of Canada retool its vehicle assembly plant. electrics in Oakville last year. He also spoke about the real economic incentive for change created by the carbon tax and rebate program, recently validated at the Supreme Court of Canada.

Mr. Caddigan then challenged Mr. Wilkinson to the impact that the efforts of Canada and other advanced countries could have in the face of increasing emissions from the newly industrialized world. Mr. Wilkinson referred to the recent partnership announced by the United States and India to phase out coal in that country. He also stressed that China is committed to achieving net zero by 2060, in line with its Paris commitment, which considers its economy still developing. China’s support for coal in Africa through its Belt and Road initiative has not materialized.

Mr Wilkinson’s confidence in the plan was also questioned by Mr Caddigan, who highlighted the high costs of technologies to replace current technologies powered by fossil fuels. Mr Wilkinson pointed to the dramatic drop in solar power costs as an example of how the cost curve for new technologies starts off at a high level but decreases rapidly once development costs have been paid.

He cited government efforts through grants to ensure that these technologies can be competitive when initially deployed at high cost and low volume. (Another government move will be to offset costly industrial premiums for green technologies so that big industry does not invest more in high-carbon options.) He praised British Columbia as a leader in the Canada by adding to the federal clean electric vehicle rebate provincial rebate, which has led to over 10% of new cars in BC already being electric vehicles, and expressed hope that other provinces will follow suit.

The federal government is responsible for Canada’s international commitments and must encourage the provinces to align with these goals. Nova Scotia and Quebec also lead the other Canadian provinces.

On the electric vehicle front, Mr. Caddigan asked about range anxiety associated with electric cars. According to the minister, Petro Canada is installing charging stations at its gas stations, and the government is investing $ 250 million in charging to get rid of this worry. Mr Wilkinson stressed that as an EV owner he appreciates the convenience of recharging at home and starting each morning with a full “tank”.

Outside of climate initiatives, Mr Caddigan challenged Mr Wilkinson on the issue of plastic waste, which he says is of growing concern as consumers learn that much of what they put in the blue box ends up in landfills. Mr Wilkinson was in enthusiastic agreement, citing the impact of plastic on marine biodiversity and the health risks to all species, including humans, from microplastics in our water.

The government’s goal is to keep plastic in the economy but out of the environment, he said. Some single-use plastics for which there are readily available alternatives have been banned, but the key to reducing the environmental impact is the responsibility of the producer.

The government is working on structures and incentives to change product design, including requirements to use more recycled plastic and that products must be designed for recycling. All of this, he said, will have to be done in a way that does not disadvantage domestic Canadian suppliers.

The general impression that emerges from the speech and question period is that the government takes the issue very seriously and has rational plans to manage what will amount to a radical change in our economy. While, of course, public service policies, regulations and incentives emerge, Wilkinson has left the impression that he is very familiar with the issues his department deals with and that he exercises judgment and judgment. economic realism to define the direction of this critical situation. wallet.

If leadership sets the direction and management gets it, Mr. Wilkinson has inspired confidence that despite many failures on this file in the past, clear, concrete and detailed plans are now being implemented and practical tools that can have a real impact are made endure. He also said the government understands the scale of the economic disruption this represents. It invests in recycling and bridging bridges for individuals and businesses for what it has called the most important economic opportunity that has been presented to Canada in decades.


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