Politics·Fact Check

How the New Democrats could create 300,000 new green jobs

The federal New Democrats are promising to spend $15 billion to fight climate change and create 300,000 new jobs in the process. Is that doable?
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh speaks to delegates and supporters at the Ontario NDP Convention in Hamilton, Ont., in June. His party is vowing to create 300,000 new green jobs as part of a $15-billion fight against climate change. (Tara Walton/Canadian Press)

As part of our federal election coverage, CBC News is assessing the truthfulness and accuracy of statements made by politicians and their parties. 

The Claim: "Our plan to fight climate change will create at least 300,000 new jobs."

-- A central pledge from the NDP's Power to Change: A New Deal for Climate Action and Good Jobs

The Facts: 

The federal New Democrats are promising to create at least 300,000 "good jobs" over the next four years if elected. And the party's climate change strategy makes it clear that those employment gains would come in the sectors of infrastructure, transit, housing and renewable energy. 

Mélanie Richer, the party's communications director, says the figure is a "conservative estimate" of the jobs that will be created by the $15 billion in green investments that an NDP government would make over its first mandate, including $6.5 billion for mass transit, $3.5 billion to spur the transition to renewable energy and $2.5 billion targeted at making communities and homes more energy efficient.

The NDP based its math on studies like the 2017 Jobs for Tomorrow report commissioned by Canada's building trades unions, which estimated that 3.3 million construction positions — and up to 14 million more "indirect" jobs — would be created by 2050 if the country made the society-changing shift to net zero carbon emissions. 

The transition to net zero carbon emissions in Canada would create more than 17 million jobs by 2050, according to one labour-sponsored study. (Reuters)

The linchpin of the New Democrat's green jobs plan is a related promise to require "large-scale building retrofits across all sectors" to reduce energy demand, including setting a target to retrofit "all housing stock in Canada by 2050," with half of the improvements to be completed within the next 11 years.

To put that in perspective, the 2016 Census counted 14.1 million private dwellings across the country. So meeting that 50 per cent target in little more than a decade would require the renovation of more than 630,000 homes each year — a truly massive task. 

The NDP is also vowing to build a half-million new affordable housing units over the next decade.

Would all that generate work for at least 300,000 people? Surely, yes. 

But keep in mind that the Canadian economy added a record 106,500 jobs in April alone, and more than 420,000 jobs total between the start of July 2018 and the end of June 2019. So 75,000 jobs a year over the life of a government is actually a relatively modest target.

And one figure that the NDP hasn't provided is the number of jobs that will be lost in the transition away from "carbon-intensive industries" — like oil and gas. 

Power to Change promises improved access to training and retraining to "ensure that everyone has access to the skills and knowledge that will be in demand in a low-carbon future." It also pledges to make the employment insurance (EI) system "more responsive" to the "realities of the shifting economy," specifically by making it easier to qualify for benefits. 

The Verdict: 

Probably true. We can't predict the future, but based on the facts, the NDP's claim is plausible.

Sources: The New Democratic Party of Canada, Jobs for Tomorrow: Canada's Building Trades and Net Zero Emissions by the Columbia Institute, Census in Brief: Dwellings in Canada, Statistics Canada, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh promises 500,000 affordable housing units if elected prime minister, Toronto Star, Canada's economy adds 106,500 jobs, most in a month since 1976, CBC News, Labour force characteristics by industry, Statistics Canada, Canada's economy loses 2,200 jobs in June, CBC News

Corrections

  • A previous version of this story said the NDP's claim that its climate change plan will create at least 300,000 new jobs is "true." It should have concluded the claim is plausible.
    Aug 14, 2019 10:56 AM ET

About the Author

Jonathon Gatehouse

Jonathon Gatehouse

Has covered news and politics at home and abroad, reporting from dozens of countries. He has also written extensively about sports, including seven Olympic Games and a best-selling book on the business of pro-hockey.

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