TORONTO—Two of the nation’s top unions are urging the federal and Ontario governments to hold fast despite potential sanctions against the province’s “buy-local” rules under the Green Energy Act.
Canadian Auto Workers’ (CAW) president Ken Lewenza and Communications, Energy and Paperworkers (CEP) president Dave Coles issued a joint statement in response to recent reports that the World Trade Organization (WTO) could deem Ontario’s locally made product requirements under the Green Energy Act a violation of global trade rules.
“Canadians are facing a double-barreled crisis,” the statement reads. “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 10 years, and “valuable manufacturing and processing skills and technologies are washing up on foreign shores,” according to Lewenza and Coles.
“On the other hand, we face an impending climate crisis,” the statement continues. “Carbon emissions have hit unsustainable levels and must be reduced.
“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.”
The two say their organizations lauded the Ontario government’s initiative to spearhead the development of the green energy sector.
And while they say its not perfect, the Green Energy Act included 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,” the statement says.
With recent reports suggesting a WTO tribunal is set to rule in favour of a joint complaint filed by Japan and the European Union (EU) that the requirements are in violation of existing global trade rules, the union heads are urging the governments to defend the policy, calling the notion of a ruling against “outrageous.”
“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 statement concludes.