NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh speaks with a member of the media following a press conference to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the NDP, at the Jack Layton Monument in Toronto, on Tuesday, August 3, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Tijana Martin

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh speaks with a member of the media following a press conference to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the NDP, at the Jack Layton Monument in Toronto, on Tuesday, August 3, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Tijana Martin

NDP promises to double transit funding, saying youth want green jobs

Justin Trudeau’s Liberals have failed to meet their own targets for emissions reduction and still heavily subsidize the country’s oil and gas industry, the NDP’s Jagmeet Singh said on Tuesday as he promised to double federal funding for public transit.

Singh was on the campaign trail in Toronto to announce that an NDP government would increase the cash Ottawa sends to municipalities for public transit to $4.4 billion from $2.2 billion.

“That would help us invest in more public transit, electrify the fleets, make it more affordable and accessible for communities,” he said as some of the city’s streetcars rolled past in the background.

Transportation is one of the primary contributors to Canada’s carbon output, accounting for almost a quarter of the total.

Climate change and the actions the government takes to address it are a key concern for the vast majority of young voters, who are set to take on more of the burden of dealing with increasingly extreme weather caused or exacerbated by human industrial activity.

Voters aged 18 to 29 are much more likely than older voters to list tackling the climate crisis as one of their top two priorities, according to Abacus Data polling released last week. Those who voted for the Green Party in 2019 and residents of Quebec and British Columbia also rate climate change as a particularly pivotal issue.

“One thing that we’ve heard from young Canadians that they want to see and that we haven’t heard lots of parties talk about yet is green jobs,” said Camellia Wong, a spokesperson for Future Majority, a nonpartisan group of young people pushing for politicians to take more notice of their concerns.

She said that a robust green jobs program would help address two major issues facing the younger generation: the climate crisis and the precarity of work.

The NDP platform includes a pledge to create a youth Climate Corps “to respond to climate impacts and build an equitable clean-energy economy.” The Greens’ platform has also hinted at green jobs training programs, including a youth climate corps, while the Liberals are pledging $8 billion to “accelerate green jobs and Canada’s industrial transformation.” (The Conservative platform does not mention green jobs.)

Tens of thousands of young Canadians lost work due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and Wong said a green jobs program should aim to create at least 100,000 stable positions that are geographically diverse and attainable for those at various educational levels.

That would mean skills and development training to prepare the workforce for jobs in clean urban planning, green policy development, and home and other building retrofits, she said.

Singh also touted building retrofits as a possible route to both job growth and greener outcomes, without providing further details. The NDP platform sets a target of upgrading all buildings constructed before 2020 within 20 years and retrofitting all Canadian buildings by 2050.

Singh also refused to be drawn in on where the NDP would set its price on carbon emissions, which the Liberal government has set at $50 per tonne in 2022 rising to $170 per tonne by 2030.

The NDP says it would aim to cut Canada’s emissions in half compared to 2005 by 2030, and cut off all fossil fuel subsidies. The Liberals have set a 40 per cent target for that time frame and have written into law that the country must get to net-zero by 2050.