Prime Minister Justin Trudeau held his first virtual tour of British Columbia on Wednesday, in lieu of his usual in-person visit to the region, given the restrictions around travelling during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Trudeau took part in online discussions with B.C. Premier John Horgan and federal Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson about new green infrastructure projects and economic recovery.
The federal government announced a $28.5-million green infrastructure project with the province on Tuesday. The funding will be divided among 11 projects across B.C., from expanding electric vehicle charging stations in Nanaimo to experimenting with using heat from Vancouver’s sewage to create low-carbon forms of energy.
As Canada tries to recuperate from economic losses incurred during COVID-19, environmental advocates have urged the federal government to remember and keep its climate change and conservation promises. Approaching its Paris climate agreement 2030 deadline, Canada has vowed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 30 per cent below what they were in 2005. Trudeau’s government also pledged to increase the amount of land, freshwater and marine conservation areas to 25 per cent and reach net-zero carbon pollution by 2025.
“We got to get through this pandemic first,” said Trudeau in a video posted prior to his meetings.
The prime minister, along with Wilkinson, participated in a “Green Recovery” roundtable that included major stakeholders from B.C. to discuss shaping economic recovery while simultaneously meeting Canada’s climate targets.
Analysis from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives found that the forced shutdown of businesses in March saw pollution levels in the country’s five largest cities fall by 15 percent. But the environmental gains were tainted by a historically low drop in Canada’s gross domestic product, which for the months of April, May and June slumped by 11.5 percent, according to Statistics Canada’s latest numbers.
Trudeau’s virtual tour comes as Parliament is set to resume in three weeks, when his government could fall on a non-confidence motion. While Trudeau said he prorogued Parliament to give his government time to figure out a COVID-19 recovery plan, it came on the heels of an ethics probe into his dealings with WE Charity.
If the Liberal government fails the confidence vote, Canadians would go to the polls this fall. With 42 seats in the House of Commons, B.C. could play an important role in who is elected prime minister. In the 2019 election, the Liberals and the NDP won 11 seats each in the province, while the Conservatives got 17.
Premier John Horgan said his discussion with the Prime Minister and his minister of environment focused on keeping British Columbians safe during the pandemic.
Premila D’Sa / Local Journalism Initiative / Canada’s National Observer