I recently met with Muhammad Yunus, economist, social entrepreneur, and Nobel Peace Prize winner for his pioneering work in microfinance. We talked about his ideas for a world of zero poverty, zero unemployment, and zero net carbon emissions.
He also spoke about Canada’s fortunate position in comparison to other countries, and concluded: “So the burden of leadership falls on you.”
Yunus is right. Canada should be at the forefront of efforts to tackle these global problems. Thankfully, greater leadership is already underway.
To tackle poverty, our government has increased basic income support programs for families with kids through the Canada Child Benefit, and for seniors through the Guaranteed Income Supplement. The Library of Parliament estimates that 695,000 individuals will be lifted out of low income status as a result.
Over the last two years, I’ve advocated for increasing the Working Income Tax Benefit, a basic income support program for the working poor, since 70 per cent of Canadians in poverty are working. Our government will have increased this program by $750 million annually (a 65 per cent increase) by next year, which will have a further and significant effect on reducing poverty in our country.
Globally, the Prime Minister recently announced that our government will double our annual contributions to the Global Partnership for Education, to $360 million over three years, to support girls’ education and strengthen education systems in developing countries.
To tackle unemployment, our government has allocated almost $3 billion over six years to help Canadians upgrade their skills, gain experience, or get help to start their own business.
On the question of youth unemployment in particular, we continue to help young Canadians gain work experience through the Canada Summer Jobs program, through which businesses receive a wage subsidy equal to 50 per cent of the minimum wage, and not-for-profits receive a 100 per cent subsidy. The application deadline for this coming year is Feb. 9.
Last year we delivered over $600,000 in direct support for student jobs here in Beaches-East York, and expect significant support again this year.
Our government has also recently announced a new youth initiative called the Canada Service Corps, $105 million over three years, to recruit young people in community service projects around the country. Small grants of $250, $750, and $1500 for students are already available for community initiatives, an idea in keeping with Professor Yunus’ goal of promoting youth entrepreneurship through social enterprise.
To tackle climate change, our government has announced a number of new clean energy programs, allocating $182 million to increase building energy efficiency, $100 million for smart grid projects, and $120 million to expand the network of electric vehicle charging stations across Canada.
If you are interested in learning more about any of these programs, please contact my office as soon as possible.
Our government has committed $700 million through the Business Development Bank of Canada to help clean-tech companies expand, and $400 million to recapitalize Canada’s Sustainable Development Technology Fund, which supports early stage clean-tech projects.
Later this year, our government’s zero-emissions vehicle strategy will be announced, and our federal carbon pricing regime will come into effect. The carbon pricing draft legislative proposal is open for comment until Feb. 12, and comments on the regular framework are open until April 9.
Beyond clean-tech and carbon pricing, our government will soon announce major reforms to our environmental assessment process, and our Prime Minister recently announced that Canada will use its G7 presidency to push for stronger ocean protections, including action on plastic waste.
Finally, the GLOBE Climate Leadership Awards are accepting applications until Feb. 13, for businesses that have dramatically reduced energy use, or launched creative technologies to reduce carbon pollution.
It is important that we recognize and encourage leadership in these areas. A humane and compassionate society and a healthy planet depend on strong leadership, and the burden to lead is ours.
Nathaniel Erskine-Smith is the MP for Beaches-East York.