Redirect Oil Subsidies to New Green Economy, Young Activists say

October 31, 2012, 9:25 AM EST

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Dozens of young CAW members and other union activists from across Canada joined in a national call to end government tax subsidies to the fossil fuel industry at a public demonstration in Ottawa on October 29.

Hundreds of young union members, students, environmental activists and indigenous youth protested on the steps of Parliament Hill, demanding an end to $1.4 billion in tax subsidies provided by the federal government to corporations in the oil and gas sector each year.  Demonstrators, many dressed in Halloween costumes, urged the government to instead redirect those funds to investing in renewable energy infrastructure, jobs, education, health care and others, through speeches, chants and street theatre.

The demonstration was the culmination of a weekend conference held at the University of Ottawa called Power Shift. The conference brought together a diverse group of young people to discuss issues related to climate change and social justice, strategize around campaign actions and plan how young Canadians can work together to make change.

CAW Local 444 Youth Committee Co-Chair Melisa Larue said young Canadians have to forge a united voice in order to affect positive political change, and Power Shift provides the opportunity for that to happen.

"Young people are increasingly frustrated with the policies and priorities of the current federal government," said Larue, also a national Power Shift organizer. "The Harper government tells us there's no money to fund public services and other job creating projects, while handing out billions to mega-rich oil companies.  Young Canadians are seeing through that hypocrisy and demanding change."

CAW members participated in the conference and demonstration, representing 11 different locals unions. CEP, PSAC, CUPE and other unions were represented as well.
CAW Local 2215 member George Sutherland called the conference an "eye-opener," and hopes to keep up the campaign momentum back in his home province of Nova Scotia, alongside other local Power Shift participants.

"There was an incredibly energy generated from Power Shift that has to be sustained if we're going to win this campaign and start making a difference," Sutherland said. "This conference has given me a push to get our local youth committee up and running, start building community links, and get to work."

CAW is an official supporter of Power Shift 2012. The union is also a founding member of the Canadian Youth Climate Coalition (founded in 2006).

For more information on Power Shift, visit: or contact


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