CAW-CEP Urge Feds, Ontario to Protect Green Jobs Program

October 19, 2012, 10:00 AM EST

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CAW President Ken Lewenza and CEP President Dave Coles have issued the following joint statement in response to recent reports that the World Trade Organization could deem Ontario's "buy-local" requirements under the Green Energy Act a violation of global trade rules.

Canadians are facing a double-barrelled crisis. On the one hand, we've witnessed the hollowing out of our manufacturing and processing capacities. Over half a million manufacturing workers have been displaced through plant closings and mass lay-offs within the last decade. Valuable manufacturing and processing skills and technologies are washing up on foreign shores. Canada's industrial base is withering.

On the other hand, we face an impending climate crisis. Carbon emissions have hit unsustainable levels and must be reduced. For its share of the global population, Canada contributes far more to the problem than it should.

Both of our organizations have long held the belief that tackling the climate crisis could provide an opportunity to also tackle our current jobs crisis. And governments have the tools at their disposal to make this happen.

We lauded the Ontario government's initiative to spearhead the development of the green energy sector. Although not perfect, the Green Energy Act of 2009 included key policy proposals to revitalize the province's hard-hit manufacturing sector and set Canada on a path of greater local, and sustainable energy development. The "Made-in-Ontario" requirements for renewable energy providers supplying
Ontario's energy grid helped create thousands of much needed jobs, and incubate a new, forward-looking 'green' manufacturing industry that benefits all Ontarians.

Recent reports suggest a World Trade Organization (WTO) tribunal is set to rule in favour of a joint complaint filed by Japan and the European Union that Ontario's domestic-content requirements are in violation of existing global trade rules (namely under the General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs). We find this outrageous.

Domestic-content rules under the Green Energy Act are intended to spur local economic development and help us live up to our responsibilities in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

We urge both the federal and Ontario governments to defend this crucial policy and file an immediate appeal of the decision, should it come to pass.

The CAW and CEP are moving forward with plans to establish a new Canadian union that will initially represent over 300,000 members, following an overwhelming vote of support by the union membership. CEP Convention delegates voted earlier this week in favour of the New Union proposal. CAW delegates voted in August.

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