How 5 youth convinced Jagmeet Singh to say yes to a Green New Deal

Pictured right to left: Monica Mason, Niklas Agarwal, Aminah Attar, Jason Hansma, Rebecca Lash (Not pictured: Cecilia Stuart). Strangers turned friends!

Our drafted questions focused on our personal lives; how most of us are under the age of 30 and will live to see the most catastrophic climate impacts as well as the precarity of employment our generation is currently experiencing. We also wanted to press Jagmeet on larger issues such as how he sees climate justice tying in with the fight for Indigenous sovereignty, an issue on which he has been disappointingly non-committal.

Jagmeet elaborated that his plan would include “not just a shift but a transformation” encompassing public transit, housing retrofits, and supporting farmers.

We were excited by this bold commitment from Jagmeet Singh but we also noted that in his references to a “green economy of the future,” he didn’t mention a federal job guarantee (integral in our opinions), as well as a transition plan for fossil-fuel sector workers. When asked about a strategy to transition frontline workers he referenced ending fossil fuel sector subsidies (already a Liberal promise that has yet to materialize) as well as “planning ahead” for jobs that aren’t tied to boom and bust cycles over the next century. He also didn’t reference stringent emissions targets in line with the IPCC (50% in 11 years), as well as the key role that Indigenous frontline communities and land defenders play in climate justice work. Nor was there a message that care workers and precarious workers are most affected by climate change and hail from communities which have historically contributed the least to global emissions. It was notable that Jagmeet did not use the phrase “Green New Deal” when speaking about an NDP climate plan.

For us, what is most exciting about a Green New Deal is the absolutely transformative potential the idea holds and how it dreams big (where previous climate plans have been limited) but is still practical.

The original New Deal in the US was a state-led transformation of the economy and the creation of massive social nets to support working-class families — and it can be done again. However, that movement was led by workers and labour organizers and a Green New Deal needs to center labour again if there is any hope of broad success. That’s why as climate organizers we are moving to build alliances with labour organizations such as the Fight for $15 and Fairness, but we can’t do it alone.

We need our political leaders to recognize that workers and the climate are both suffering under runaway capitalism, and only a complete transformation of the economy can solve both issues.

We felt that Jagmeet didn’t articulate the depth of this concept. As the party historically of the working-class, we need the NDP to step up to the plate. Without this nuance and joint effort, promises of ending subsidies can come across as environmental attacks to labour groups who work in precarious boom-bust industries because decent work has been virtually wiped out.

As five young people who barely knew each other a week ago it was an incredibly inspiring moment because we were able to shift the conversation just by showing up strategically.

We urge other young people across the country to step up and go to the various town halls parties will be having in the upcoming months. If we could do it in three days with zero money you definitely can pull something off. Tell your politicians step up for a Green New Deal for Canada or step aside. We have an opportunity in the 2019 election to elect amazing progressives with a bold visions for tackling climate action and inequality who will be running in the upcoming nomination battles and election. And since young people and millennials will be the largest voting block in this election, we have the power to change the direction this country is headed in. So let’s get organized. Most importantly, we urge you to make relations and partnerships with labour and economic justice groups. Our planet and future depends on it.

Just a few weeks before the authors confronted Jagmeet at a town hall, they were part of Powershift Young and RIsing — a massive youth climate convergence. As part of this convergence, a massive contingent of young people canvassed in support of the Green New Deal at the Rideau Canal in Ottawa. Photo Credit: Allan Lissner



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