Monday, 2 February 2009

Speech notes: Jan31 & Feb1

Below are the prepared notes for a speech I gave this weekend at gatherings in Dartmouth and the Annapolis Valley. It was not delivered exactly as it appears here, but I did stick mostly to this outline.

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Good afternoon everyone...

It seems that depressing news has become the norm these days: the latest round of job losses, the economic crisis, the latest statistics on the environmental crisis, and a host of other challenges. But today, I want to focus on something a little more positive. Although we face great challenges, I have incredible hope for our future here in Nova Scotia. There is so much potential in our province. So I wanted to start today by sharing a hopeful vision of Nova Scotia's future. So please bear with me and imagine, if you can, a green Nova Scotia.

Windmills spot the province, cleanly producing the energy we need to power our homes and businesses. Some are large-scale wind farms, and many sites support just one or two turbines. These windmills are owned locally by individuals, businesses and communities, and every rotation of every turbine brings money and energy back into the rural areas of our province. Building and maintaining this infrastructure keeps thousands of Nova Scotians employed in a vital and sustainable industry.

Other renewable energy is also coming on strong. Tidal energy and sustainably harvested biomass lead the way, with solar and even some wave energy harvested.

Electrified rail lines connect our province from end to end. An efficient passenger service makes it more convenient to travel distances by train than by car. A robust cargo capacity keeps commerce flowing with low emissions, and low reliance on fossil fuels. Buses and trucks fill the gaps where rail does not reach. Thousands of reliable jobs exist in the transportation sector.

Great effort has gone into making our current built stock energy efficient, and all new buildings use 70-90% less energy. Passive solar is the norm for new construction.

The way we access food has changed. Supply chains have drastically shortened, with most of the food consumed by Nova Scotians grown in the farms, orchards, and gardens of our province. This keeps our wealth circulating in Nova Scotia, building our economy and our workforce.

Re-energized rural communities have reversed the trend of out-migration, and Nova Scotia's towns are known across the country as desirable places to live and work. Our cities are vibrant centres hosting many diverse communities, green manufacturing, and a vast number of entrepreneurs all learning from each other and building the economy of the future.

Looking around our province now, we can see that in many ways we are very far from this vision. But we have access to all the technology we need. And with a meltdown in the global economy, the economic benefits of local resilience are becoming ever more obvious.

So, we have the technology. It makes long term economic sense. Why are we not well on our way to realizing a green vision for Nova Scotia?

I think there are two main reasons why we are not actively pursuing the opportunities of the future. The first is organization. Every vision needs advocates in order to become reality. Every vision needs champions who are willing to pour their passion and their efforts into a worthy cause. And because public policy is so integral to this vision, we need an effective political organization working to bring about policies for a green future. That's where the Green Party comes in, and that's why we are here today.

I think that the second reason we just plod along on our current path is simply an issue of momentum. The business-as-usual mindset is still very strong. Our federal government has put forward a budget that is similar in approach to the actions of other governments around the world. Our provincial government is likely to do the same thing. The goal is to "jumpstart" the economy by increasing the deficit and increasing the debt load on future generations.

The logic is tempting, but let's think about this for a minute. We are in a crisis because of over-consumption financed by unsustainable levels of debt. The solution for this crisis that we are hearing from our governments is to restart over-consumption by going deeper into debt. The morality of impoverishing our children to prop up our own lifestyle is highly suspect in the first place, and secondly it is simply not likely to work. We are reaching the limits of our planet's ability to sustain exponential economic growth, and no matter how much debt we leave for our children we cannot alter that fact.

The Green Party has a vision of a future of sustainable prosperity. But that future will only come to pass through the work that we do today. It is up to us to bring this vision into the daily politics of Nova Scotia, and move it forward.

So what policies do we support? What actions can we take that address the root causes of our economic crisis and at the same time build a sustainable future?

I once heard someone say, "Don't tell me your priorities, show me your budget and I'll tell you your priorities."

Investment now is the key to build a greener future. We don't need stimulus that attempts to keep an old paradigm stumbling along for another year. We need stimulus that invests aggressively in the economy of the future. We need stimulus that takes advantage of the opportunities to build infrastructure and economic pathways that keep wealth circulating in Nova Scotia, create green collar jobs, and move us towards long term economic stability.

If we want energy efficient buildings, we need policies in place to support this. If we want locally owned renewable energy, we need to pay producers a fair price for it. If we want a sustainable, reliable and clean transportation network then we have to invest in it now.

It is up to us to build the future we want for our province. It's up to us to speak out in support of new directions. This is a crucial time, and it is so important for us each to stand up for what we believe in. It's time to work together, it's time to take leadership for our communities, it's time to act for a future of sustainable prosperity.

Thank you again for being here today. I look forward to speaking further with each of you this afternoon.