“We don’t want to be burning dirty diesel. We want to invest in green energy and fight climate change. This is a matter of survival. Where is the federal government?” These are the words of Eric Redhead, Chief of Shamattawa First Nation. This remote First Nation in northern Manitoba, like many Indigenous and northern communities, is reliant on diesel-generated power to survive.
Northern and Indigenous communities across Canada are already paying the price of climate change, and they are calling on the federal government to work collaboratively in mitigating its impacts by investing in green infrastructure now.
The climate emergency can be seen across our country and is becoming increasingly evident through its impacts on people living in Indigenous and northern communities. Devastating wildfires. Record droughts. Disappearing permafrost leading to crumbling infrastructure. Melting ice roads further isolating communities.
Indigenous and northern communities have been the proverbial ‘canaries in the coal mine’—both sounding the alarm that climate change is here and telling us that urgent collective action is needed immediately.
We know that combating the climate crisis requires bold collective action at the greatest scale possible. It requires a range of tools and must include the use of public ownership to begin immediately investing in climate mitigation as well as adaptation. That is why I have put forward Bill C-245, an alternative to the Liberals’ privatization agenda that uses public ownership to support communities in the fight against climate change.
I am proposing that the Canada Infrastructure Bank (one of our Crown corporations) be reformed—doing away with corporate welfare, disastrous public-private partnership models and for-profit projects, focusing instead on public investment with priority given to infrastructure projects that will support communities fighting climate change.
As progressives, we have spent a lot of time fighting privatization, and rightfully so. However, it’s time we propose solutions that put public ownership at the forefront as a primary tool in the fight against climate change.
The Canada Infrastructure Bank should be delivering for communities instead of corporations, but it is failing to do so. It is currently sitting on $35 billion, and has yet to see one project to completion. What’s more, it has no particular commitment to climate action or Indigenous governance and reconciliation.
Bill C-245 seeks to change all of that and put into action our vision for bold collective climate action. The Canada Infrastructure Bank could be so much more, including the issuer of green bonds to allow for the realization of the infrastructure needed as part of a Green New Deal.
We’re running out of time, but we can meet our climate targets if we act now. Our government must shift funding away from capital investment and subsidies for the fossil fuel industry towards capital and support for a green transition. Instead of giving billions to Big Oil and buying them pipelines, why not invest that money in green infrastructure?
We have the capacity to do this through public ownership and the power of public investment. We have the power to build a more sustainable, climate-resilient future—but Bill C-245 is crucial for ensuring that communities are given the tools and funds needed to implement these necessary projects.
Join our campaign to pass Bill C-245 by clicking here. It’s time we use public ownership to fight climate change. It’s time to put people and our planet before profit.
Niki Ashton is an NDP MP for the federal electoral district of Churchill—Keewatinook Aski in Manitoba. She was first elected in the 2008 federal election.