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N.W.T. youth demand cross-party support for Canadian Green New Deal

Youth from Our Time Yellowknife called on N.W.T. Liberal MP Michael McLeod to support an NDP initiative to get Green New Deal legislation in Canada.

New report estimates plan would cost $700 billion over next 30 years

Our Time Yellowknife organizers met with MP Michael McLeod on Dec. 17 to ask him to second an NDP motion to pursue Green New Deal Legislation in Canada. (Our Time for a Green New Deal - Yellowknife Twitter)

Youth organizers from Our Time Yellowknife are "disappointed" MP Michael McLeod won't yet commit to supporting an NDP MP's initiative to establish Green New Deal legislation in Canada.

The youth, who are part of a national movement to get a Green New Deal, met with McLeod this week. On Tuesday, they presented him with a mandate letter signed by people from across the N.W.T. — Indigenous leaders, elders, MLAs, city councillors, students, teachers and parents.

"We saw huge numbers of people mobilizing to make this [a] climate election," said Thomas Gagnon-van Leeuwen, an organizer with Our Time Yellowknife. 

In that meeting, the youth asked McLeod to second a motion by NDP MP Peter Julian. That motion, called M-1, calls on the government to create a Green New Deal modelled the one proposed by U.S. Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. 

Julian's website calls it "the first and only legislative initiative before the House of Commons ... advocating for a Green New Deal."

A Green New Deal is a bold plan.- Thomas Gagnon-van Leeuwen, Our Time Yellowknife

The motion calls for ambitious government action to tackle climate change and socio-economic inequality. It would include public investments in clean renewable energy, housing retrofits and electrifying transportation.

"A Green New Deal is a bold plan to listen to the climate science, uphold Indigenous rights and sovereignty and leave no one behind in the process," Gagnon-van Leewen said.

McLeod told organizers he won't commit to endorsing the NDP motion, but said he agrees with the principles of the mandate letter.

Those principles include respecting Indigenous rights and sovereignty; basing climate targets on science; creating "millions of decent, well-paying union jobs"; and recognizing marginalized and Indigenous communities in designing solutions to climate change.

A spokesperson for McLeod declined the CBC's request for an interview and said he will wait until the motion is scheduled for debate before he takes a public stance.

McLeod told organizers with Our Time Yellowknife he would share his stance in the New Year. He also said to wait until the Liberal party comes out with its own plan. 

That reply fell short for Our Time Yellowknife organizers.

"We are glad that Mr. McLeod told us that he supports the pillars of the Green New Deal.… However, we're disappointed that he wasn't willing to state that by supporting a motion [and] taking a concrete step to work across party lines,"  Gagnon-van Leeuwen said.

Democratic representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is one of the main backers of a Green New Deal proposal in the U.S. (Jonathan Bachman/Reuters)

'Deploy, deploy, deploy'

Pursuing a Green New Deal can't wait, says Mark Jacobson, the director of Stanford University's Atmosphere/Energy Program.

He authored a report published Friday which maps out what a Green New Deal would look like for 143 countries.

To realize a Green New Deal, countries have to to electrify energy and transportation, transition to energy-efficient technology and to shift to wind, water and solar. It sets targets for 80 per cent renewables by 2030 and 100 per cent of energy supplied by renewables by 2050.

In Canada, Jacobson estimates a Green New Deal would cost $700 billion spread out over 30 years.

A summary of the report also says a Green New Deal would save 3,768 people from air pollution deaths every year; cut private energy costs from $292 billion to $93 billion; and reduce yearly costs for energy by $199 billion, health by $38 billion and climate costs by $489 billion.

Jacobson said Canada's transition won't be without challenges because of its economic dependence on oil and gas — but he argued jobs lost in the fossil fuel industry would be replaced jobs in other industries.

"We really just at this point need to deploy, deploy, deploy. If we want to transition to 80 per cent [renewables] by 2030, I mean, that's a huge transition. The urgency is really key here," he said.

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