Joe Gunn, executive director of Citizens for Public Justice, at a 2017 anti-poverty press conference on Parliament Hill. Photo by Deborah Gyapong

Poverty reduction and action on climate change major items for 2018

  • December 22, 2017
OTTAWA – While many positive steps have been taken on poverty-reduction and climate change, big gains on those fronts have yet to come, says the head of Citizens for Public Justice.

“On climate, we think 2018 is a big year,” said CPJ executive director Joe Gunn.

Canada has been working with Britain in efforts to phase out coal, Gunn said. “There’s a bit of posturing on Canada’s part, where we haven’t significantly lowered our own emissions yet.

“We have to show our own best practices at home,” he said. “In 2018, it’s important to see some real gains there, and that has yet to come to reality.”

CPJ had hoped promised government plans for carbon pricing, a key pillar to fight pollution and mitigate climate change, would be in place early in 2018, Gunn said. But Environment Minister Catherine McKenna announced Dec. 20 the plan, which involves the provinces, will go into effect in September.

“Now the market-friendly idea of charging for pollution that will reward good behaviour by companies” has been postponed, even though “80 per cent of Canadians live in provinces already implementing a price on carbon,” Gunn said. “This can is kicked down the road.”

Canada’s targets for reducing emissions also clash with the approval of billion-dollar projects that rely on fossil fuel production, such as the Kinder Morgan Pipeline.

On the issue of Canadian mining overseas, “it looks like the government is moving towards setting up an ombudsman in 2018,” Gunn said.

The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops and Development and Peace are among groups that have called for an ombudsman to adjudicate complaints against Canadian companies for environmental and human rights abuses.

Gunn said it is good news the government has announced it will index the Canada Child Benefit to inflation and add $500 million to the Working Income Tax Benefit to enhance the program that helps the working poor.

“What we hoped was having promised poverty reduction plan promised when came to power in 2015,” Gunn said. “That is nowhere to be found yet.”

Public consultations on a plan ended last summer, but there has been no report on it, he said.

“We don’t know what they heard or when it’s going to roll out,” he said. “We did hear last week from staffer we might be able to expect the plan later in 2018. We would certainly hope so.

“We don’t know what it will hold,” Gunn said. “I expect it will be a step,” including regular reporting to Parliament, “something absolutely necessary to have.”

“There was good news on the housing file, that the federal government is now back as a playing in housing policy,” Gunn said.

Included are announcements of funding for retrofitting current low income house. But much of the promised money for the housing program will not come until the years after the next election in 2019, he said.

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