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B.C. climate activists pitch vision for ‘Just Transition’ from fossil fuels

Speakers shared a 2025 update from the ‘Ministry of Just Transition’
The speakers representing the ‘Ministry of Just Transition’. From left to right: Khalid Boudreau, Christine Boyle, Alison Gu, Rueben George, Judy Wilson, Avi Lewis, Doreen Manuel, Seth Klein and Anjali Appadurai. (Cole Schisler/Black Press Media)

A group of climate activists held a ‘press conference from the future’ in Vancouver on Saturday (March 12), representing the idea of a Ministry of Just Transition that lays out a plan for Canada to tackle the climate crisis.

READ MORE: Penticton climate change rally urges support for ‘Just Transition Act’

Speakers acted as representatives of a ‘Climate Emergency Coalition’ government that took power in 2022 and provided a ‘ yearthree-yearupdate’ on the accomplishments the government had delivered by 2025.

Filmmaker Avi Lewis was the ‘Minister of Just Transition’ and provided the three-year update to a lively crowd assembled at the Vancouver Public Library.

“In keeping with our mandate for sweeping change we carefully studied all of the conditions and capacities of our advanced industrial economy,” Lewis said. “We conducted an inventory of our conversion needs to determine how many heat pumps, solar arrays, wind farms and electric buses we needed to electrify virtually everything and end our reliance on fossil fuels.”

READ MORE: Do heat pumps, electric vehicles make sense in northern B.C.?

Indigenous film director and professor at Capilano University Doreen Manuel spoke as the ‘Land Back Secratariat’. The Secretariat had enacted policies to pay property taxes to First Nations on whose lands they live and benefit from. Manuel detailed how the government had cancelled the Indian Act in 2023 and was implementing the ‘Land Back Act’.

“Our goal as stated by the act is to reverse the land theft that underlines the colonial nation-state of Canada. That means that 80 per cent of federal crown land is being returned to Indigenous jurisdiction,” Manuel said.

READ MORE: B.C. begins forest management overhaul to increase Indigenous participation

Vancouver city councillor Christine Boyle spoke as head of the Department of Universal Housing. The department had created a public fund to purchase and provide affordable housing for up to three million Canadians and turn ‘empty mansions’ into multi-family homes.

“The Department of Universal Housing focused first on the big solution: a public option for housing,” Boyle said. “We launched the great buyback, purchasing existing rental buildings and bringing them into community ownership. That allowed us to bring in the rent reboot, freezing or lowering rents across hundreds of thousands of units all over Canada.”

Burnaby city councillor Alison Gu spoke as the commissioner of the Clean Transit Without Delay Commission. The Commission had worked to provide frequent rapid transit services to all municipalities, electrified bus and rail fleets, provided co-op electric minivans for rural communities and transported neighbourhoods from ‘car havens’ to safe places for people.

With less time spent driving or stuck in traffic, people had more time to spend doing things and seeing people they love, Gu said.

READ MORE: Future of transit at stake, Canada’s big-city mayors say in plea for federal funds

Climate Youth activist Khalid Boudreau spoke on the work of the Police Retasking Task Force and shared how the government had ‘disarmed the police’ and worked to give civilian oversight to police forces to ‘hold them accountable’ to the communities they serve.

Secretary-treasurer for the Union of BC Indian Chiefs Kukpi7 Judy Wilson spoke as chair of the Trans Moutain Reparations and Healing Secretariat. Wilson outlined how funds dedicated to paying for the Trans Mountain expansion were redirected to communities harmed by the pipeline and fund Indigenous-led clean energy projects across the country with a starting budget of $20 billion saved from cancelling the project.

READ MORE: Cost of Trans Mountain pipeline expansion soars 70% to $21.4 billion

“It was a great day when the new climate emergency coalition government cancelled Trans Mountain on its very first day of government and announced the reparations and healing secretariat to redirect the money back to the people where it belongs,” Wilson said.

READ MORE: Climate change report a grim warning for Canada

Climate justice advocate Anjali Appadurai spoke as the CEO of the Public Goods Corporation of Canada — an organization that created dozens of crown corporations to facilitate a transition to a low-carbon economy based on the model of crown corporations created during the Second World War.

The Corporation had taken public ownership of energy companies to create thriving renewable energy and redeploy skills and materials from the fossil fuel industry. She also shared how crown corporations were used to produce pharmaceutical vaccines to give Canadians low-cost medications.

Climate analyst and author of A Good War: Mobilizing Canada for the Climate Emergency, Seth Klein explained that the Just Transition was paid for in part by the Bank of Canada enacting quantitative easing policies similar to what was seen in the first year of the pandemic.

“Most of that year, the Bank of Canada was buying up federal government securities to finance the COVID emergency response to the tune of $5 billion every week for a year. Once we embedded our climate emergency goals within the mandate of Bank of Canada, the bank proceeded to do this again for a mere four weeks a year, generating $20 billion for climate and just transition programs.”

READ MORE: Bank of Canada ends quantitative easing, leaves interest rates untouched

He also said the Bank created Climate Bonds — which proved to be ‘wildly popular’ — similar to Victory Bonds that were sold to fund the Second World War effort.

Energy industry-dependent regions like Newfoundland & Labrador, Alberta, Saskatchewan and northeastern B.C. were not left behind. They received a ‘just transition transfer’, a fund jointly administered by all levels of government to provide economic opportunities for the communities that would bear the biggest burden of transitioning away from fossil fuels.

Ultimately, the press conference was an exercise in getting people to imagine what the future can look like. ‘Minister’ Lewis implored the crowd to turn the ideas into a reality.

“Do you want to live in this future? Are we ready to fight for this future? Because this future we described here today is the work of all of us — the fruits of our imagination and struggle — and that’s what we came here today to commune around: the future we can build together.”


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