02/10/2012 03:47 EST | Updated 04/10/2012 05:12 EDT

Denying Climate Change Denies us Jobs

The Conservative government needs to stop denying climate change and realize jobs can be created through investing in green infrastructure projects, enhanced public transit, and green research and development, all of which will spur economic development in every community in Canada.

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Last week during Question Period, I repeatedly asked Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver if he accepted the scientific reality that fossil fuels cause climate change. It took six tries before he reluctantly agreed, but what remained imminently clear is his and the government's denial that climate change is a problem.

This form of denial not only threatens to pass on a poisoned planet to our youth, it is also marginalizing the Canadian economy. The Conservative's climate denial threatens to make Canada miss the boat on the next wave jobs and global innovation based on green energy.

What's more, their militant denial of the climate problem is not even helping the oil industry. Oil industry CEOs have expressed embarrassment at the Minister's fringe position. Our government's refusal to deal with the problem has led foreign investors and trading partners to slam the door on Canadian energy, until we clean up our act.

The Minister, whose portfolio includes development and support of clean energy industries, has yet to present a credible plan to move Canada to the green economy and to establish real diversity in the energy economy of the future.

The need to take action and develop green jobs is clear. Experts are suggesting that pigeon-holing Canada into a petro-economy is setting us up for failure. The International Energy Agency's global low-carbon scenario states that global action on climate change will make "the economics of new oil sands projects marginal."

In the face of the reality that we will eventually have to deal with climate change, the reasonable thing to do is to develop economic strategies that think 15 to 30 years in advance and escape this government's 19th-century mindset. Alberta Premier Allison Redford's call for a National Energy Strategy appears prepared to recognize the climate change problem, but the federal government continues to deny it.

A reasonable approach would implement measures to reduce greenhouse gas (GHGs) in the oil sands and the rest of the country. It would strategically and methodically develop plans to diversify the economy in Alberta and the rest of Canada and give us a foothold in the clean energy industries that will fuel jobs and innovation in this century.

We must recognize our fossil fuel stock as a precious resource that we can use strategically to provide jobs today, but also ensure longer-term job security by using the short-term wealth they create to transition us towards new industries. We need to stop denying the writing on the wall, and develop prudent strategies to find ways to transfer the skills and knowledge that the workers in the oil sands have towards green energy industries.

A green jobs strategy would include extending the ecoENERGY home retrofit program, which the Conservatives have just cancelled, because it has created economic spin-offs of $10 for every $1 invested by the government while simultaneously reducing our carbon footprint. Jobs can be created through investing in green infrastructure projects, enhanced public transit, and green research and development, all of which will spur economic development in every community in Canada.

The difference between the NDP and the Conservatives is that the NDP recognizes the reality of the climate change challenge and is proposing solutions that will help our economy. Meanwhile the Conservatives waste time denying the problem and bowing down to oil executives.

The most advanced economies are the ones that solve the most pressing problems that the world faces. Minister Oliver denies that we have a problem, which is why he is putting our environment in danger and putting jobs at risk by locking Canada into a marginal economic position that denies that green energy needs to be a leading industry in this century.