Gov. Gen. Julie Payette watches a livestream of the proceedings before reading the speech from the throne in the Senate chamber in Ottawa, Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

Liberals plan fund to spur green technology, jobs

Plans to spend on building retrofits, clean energy and production of electric vehicles

The Trudeau government says it will launch a new fund to spur investments and jobs in green technology as it seeks a balance between the competing visions of environmental advocates and legacy industries.

In the throne speech delivered Wednesday by Gov. Gen. Julie Payette, the Liberals outlined plans to spend on building retrofits, clean energy and production of electric vehicles as the next phase in the fight against climate change.

“Global consumers and investors are demanding and rewarding climate action,” the speech reads. “We can create good jobs today and a globally competitive economy not just next year, but in 2030, 2040, and beyond.”

The address, which outlines the government’s priorities for the new session of Parliament, briefly mentioned the country’s energy sector, primarily to highlight the goal of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

The government said it will “support (the) manufacturing, natural resource and energy sectors as they work to transform to meet a net zero future, creating good-paying and long-lasting jobs.”

Other measures included in the speech were plans to cut the corporate tax rate in half for clean-tech companies, support for home and building retrofits and making electric cars more affordable along with adding more charging stations nationwide.

This new clean growth plank builds on previous commitments to carbon pricing and comprises a “cornerstone” of its freshly announced goal of creating one million jobs to restore employment to previous levels.

Tech entrepreneurs stepped tentatively on board, with some maintaining a wait-and-see approach.

“The outline looks good, but it’s really the colouring that really maters,” said Benjamin Bergen, head of the high-tech lobby group Council of Canadian Innovators.

Bergen called for a commitment to back Canadian clean-tech enterprises over foreign ones in order to achieve a “double whammy.”

“The one win is actually the environmental component, but the other is meeting your economic goals and … making sure that domestic innovators are the ones that are getting the purchase orders,” he said.

The speech’s fleshed out the Liberal agenda to put energy companies on a more environmentally friendly path that meets a new clean-fuel standard.

Scheduled to take effect in 2022, the fuel standard requires firms to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases produced when liquid and gaseous fuels are burned by cutting emissions throughout the supply chain from extraction to consumption.

The environmentally focused address may resonate more with green organizations than the fossil-fuel sector.

“Great to hear the Federal Government is committing to create thousands of jobs retrofitting homes and buildings. Significant new funding is urgently needed for rural and Indigenous communities to tackle energy poverty and to build resilience,” Ecotrust Canada said in a tweet Wednesday.

A day earlier, the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers released a document emphasizing the role of the oil and gas industry in creating jobs and generating wealth while meeting climate objectives.

“As a part of the highly integrated international energy system, Canada’s oil and natural gas industry is well positioned to provide expertise in both science and technology to reduce emissions at home and around the world,” the paper states.

Trudeau may have set is government up for clashes with climate strikers, who threatened mass protests if the throne speech did not unfurl a plan to eliminate all greenhouse-gas emissions produced by human activities in Canada within a decade.

The Liberals have previously promised to cut emissions by about one-third by 2030, which was mentioned in the throne speech.

It also reiterated the plan to ban certain single-use plastics in 2021, plant two billion trees and protect one-quarter of the country’s lands and oceans by 2025, along with updating the Canadian Environmental Protection Act.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 23, 2020.

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