Goal 8: Encourage inclusive and sustainable economic growth in Canada
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Why this goal is important
This Goal's focus on encouraging inclusive and sustainable economic growth in Canada directly supports SDG Global Indicator Framework targets:
- 8.2: Achieve higher levels of economic productivity through diversification, technological upgrading and innovation, including through a focus on high-value added and labour-intensive sectors
- 8.3: Promote development-oriented policies that support productive activities, decent job creation, entrepreneurship, creativity and innovation, and encourage the formalization and growth of micro-, small- and medium-sized enterprises, including through access to financial services
- 8.5: By 2030, achieve full and productive employment and decent work for all women and men, including for young people and persons with disabilities, and equal pay for work of equal value
Opportunities exist across all sectors for businesses to increase their competitiveness and become more sustainable. To transform the economy, Canada will need to decarbonize and reduce the environmental impacts of existing sectors while growing and supporting clean technology and emerging sector jobs. Doing so requires both large-scale national and place-based approaches. Canada will also need to respond to evolving workforce needs by upskilling and reskilling workers, increasing workforce participation, and diversifying local economies. As governments, industry, and labour attempt to plan ahead for the changing skills and occupational requirements needed for the clean economy, there is an opportunity to address emerging skills gaps, undervaluing of labour, and potential labour shortages.
At the same time, the transition toward clean energy sources and clean technology poses risks of disruption, especially for vulnerable workers and those with fewer marketable skills. The shift to a clean economy needs to be pursued in a just and inclusive manner so that no one is left behind. This requires collaboration among governments, industry and organized labor to provide affected workers and communities with new opportunities for training, skills development and well-paid employment.
Canada's environmental and clean technology sector accounts for 3% of gross domestic product (GDP) and nearly 2% of jobs in Canada. It includes diverse occupations in sub-industries such as clean electricity, solar panel research, nature conservation, and waste management. Jobs in this sector are well paid, with annual salaries about 33% higher than the average Canadian wage. At 3.5% GDP growth, Canada ranked first in the G20 for clean technology innovation in the 2017 Global Cleantech Innovation Index, and fourth overall. Thirteen Canadian companies are highlighted on the 2022 index, giving Canada more companies on that list than any country other than the US.
In order to benefit from the environmental and clean technology sector and the transition to a net-zero carbon economy more broadly, Canadians will need access to the requisite infrastructure, which includes access to fast internet. Canadians from all communities, both urban and rural, rely on access to reliable, affordable, high-speed internet and mobile connectivity. It is essential for personal and professional communications, to grow a business, to apply to jobs, and to access education and government services. Overwhelmingly, rural and remote communities have identified challenges accessing affordable, high-speed internet as the number one issue impeding their economic growth.
How the Government of Canada contributes
The Government of Canada is taking action to promote decent work and well-paid jobs by growing the clean technology sector, promoting skills development and training, and diversifying local economies. The government is committed to sustainability across the economy, including through the creation of sustainable jobs so that all Canadians can enjoy the benefits of a clean economy.
The Government of Canada's Innovation and Skills Plan is a major redesign of the innovation policy landscape in Canada put in place to make Canada a world-leading centre for innovation, to create well-paying jobs and foster the participation of traditionally underrepresented groups, such as women and Indigenous people, in the innovation economy. The Plan targets investments at all points along the innovation continuum, starting with people and skills and extending to fundamental science, to commercial applications and new technology adoption, and to accessing markets at home and abroad.
The internet and its physical infrastructure are the foundation on which Canada's digital economy rely. The sustainable, well-paying and essential jobs promised as part of a just transition to a net-zero carbon economy are all reliant on it. The High-Speed Access for All: Canada's Connectivity Strategy is the government's plan to coordinate investments along with complementary measures to connect every Canadian to affordable, high-speed internet no matter where they live, and to improve mobile cellular access from coast to coast to coast.
The just transition in Canada
The Paris Agreement on climate change called on signatories to take into account “the imperatives of a just transition of the workforce and the creation of decent work and quality jobs in accordance with nationally defined development priorities.” The just transition involves preparing the workforce to fully participate in the low-carbon economy while minimizing the impacts of labour market transitions, identifying and supporting inclusive economic opportunities for workers in their communities, and putting workers and their communities front and centre in discussions that affect their livelihoods.
In support of a just transition, in 2018 the Government of Canada established the Task Force on Just Transition for Canadian Coal Power Workers and Communities. Its mandate was to engage relevant stakeholder groups including labour, provinces and municipal governments, report what was heard and provide recommendations on how the government can support coal power workers and communities. The task force released its final report in March 2019.
In response, the government committed $185 million to support affected communities, including $35 million for the Canada Coal Transition Initiative focused on skills development and economic diversification, as well as $150 million for a dedicated infrastructure fund. As of June 2022, about $91.9 million had been approved in 88 projects across New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Saskatchewan and Alberta.
The concept of just transition is not limited to the energy sector, and will be needed across many other sectors whose business models cannot adapt to incorporate the full cost of environmental impacts. It will be important to engage meaningfully and often with partners and stakeholders to ensure appropriate supports are in place.
At COP26, Canada was a signatory to the Declaration Supporting the Conditions for a Just Transition Internationally - Green growth, decent work, and economic prosperity in the transition to net zero. This includes a commitment to support and promote stakeholder engagement, and recognition that the development of locally driven just transition plans are dependent on social dialogue that includes secondary industries built around those that are carbon intensive.
In July 2021, Natural Resources Canada, the federal lead on the just transition, launched public consultations to develop sustainable jobs legislation that could inform government decision making on climate action and establish an advisory body to advise the government on regional and sectoral strategies, and support the creation of sustainable jobs.
Canada is developing regional strategies through the newly established Regional Energy and Resource Tables. These tables will bring the federal, provincial and territorial governments together with Indigenous partners, municipalities, industry, workers, unions and experts to advance the top net-zero growth priorities in the natural resources space in every region of Canada. These discussions will result in the development of place-based economic strategies that will include analysis of the skills needed to seize these opportunities across regions.
Support for green jobs in Indigenous and northern communities
The Government of Canada is helping Indigenous and northern communities access green job opportunities through the Indigenous Skills and Employment Training (ISET) Program and the Skills and Partnership Fund (SPF). ISET is a distinctions-based program designed to help First Nations, Inuit, Métis and urban/non-affiliated Indigenous Peoples improve their skills and meet their long-term career goals. It funds a network of more than 110 Indigenous service delivery organizations providing Indigenous Peoples with training and supports to improve their skills and secure employment. Meanwhile, the SPF funds partnerships between Indigenous organizations and employers to provide skills training for Indigenous Peoples linked to economic opportunities at the local, regional, and national level. SPF has the flexibility to adjust to government priorities and address emerging economic opportunities, including in the environmental sector. For example, the 2022 Call for Proposals targeted five priority sectors: the Green Economy; Information and Communications Technology; Infrastructure; the Blue Economy (ocean-based); and the Indigenous Public Sector.
The government also supports access to green jobs through the Strategic Partnerships Initiative, which allows federal organizations to coordinate their efforts, reduce administrative burden and pool resources in support of Indigenous communities. It fills gaps in other funding programs that might create a barrier to Indigenous involvement in economic opportunities.
Partner perspective: Inuit-Owned Land clean energy microgrid
Nunavut Nukkiksautiit Corporation has initiated a smart energy microgrid initiative on Inuit-Owned Land in Iqaluit, Nunavut. It will demonstrate a new approach to efficient clean energy development and operation in Canada's North. With construction slated to begin in 2023, the power system will integrate 300 kW of combined heat and power diesel generators, 250 kW of solar photovoltaics, 300 kWh of battery energy storage, and a microgrid controller.
In addition to reducing fossil fuel consumption and generating approximately $200,000 in estimated annual energy savings, this innovative power arrangement will produce reliable and affordable energy for the Aqsarniit Hotel & Conference Centre initially, as well as any future buildings to be constructed within the Inuit-Owned Land development area. This will promote new businesses and economic development opportunities otherwise considered cost prohibitive.
Source: Perspective provided by a member of the Sustainable Development Advisory Council