LETTER: Premier Furey, We Need a Green New Deal

The time has come for Newfoundland and Labrador to seize the opportunity to be a national leader and set ourselves apart.

What follows is the text of a letter submitted to Premier Andrew Furey from the Coalition for a Green New Deal in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Dear Premier Furey,

It is the pleasure of the Coalition for a Green New Deal in Newfoundland and Labrador (CGNDNL) to welcome you to the Office of the Premier. We are a group of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians who advocate for key social issues affecting our province. It is our hope to work with you and your office to address as many of these as possible.

With your medical background, we’re sure you understand the importance of social determinants of health when it comes to the overall well-being of the everyday person. Physical environments (including housing and housing security), healthy childhood development, income and social status, personal health practices and coping skills (including healthy eating and food security), and so many other factors are critical for a healthy and happy population. The CGNDNL is passionate about these issues and hopes to work with you to establish and implement policies to encourage these in the province.

Food and housing security are two issues that individuals face across the province. 15.9% of provincial citizens currently face some form of food insecurity, the highest in Canada, and 10.5% face housing needs. While Premier Ball’s government had these topics on its radar, the final results fell short of notable change.

Nowhere are these insecurities more obvious than in northern Newfoundland and Labrador. Overcrowded housing (housing which doesn’t meet the National Occupancy Standard) is a critical issue many families face. In the province’s more remote communities, overcrowding and housing insecurity are compounded by limited access for contractors and construction teams. If the contractor cannot get to the site to build new homes, then families are forced to double—and sometimes triple—up within single household dwellings. The effects of this crowding can include increased anxiety and depression, as well as difficulty achieving or accessing the various other social determinants of health. This is especially problematic in Nunatsiavut communities, where the demand for new homes is high, but the aforementioned barriers stand in the way of progress.

The most significant factor affecting the health and well-being of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians is Climate Change.  We understand that this province has seen a lot of economic success since oil was first discovered off our coasts, especially when the collapse of the cod fishery left an economic vacuum that needed to be filled. However, as science has conclusively shown, the need to move away from fossil fuels is immediate. Our youth continue taking to the streets and social media, demanding that our generation be accountable for their future. We are concerned that Premier Ball’s focus on returning to the way things were when oil was $100+ a barrel was akin to driving down Pitts Memorial Highway using only your rear view mirror to get you to where you’re going—you’re going to lose track of where you are, and likely end up in a ditch.

The time has come for Newfoundland and Labrador to seize the opportunity to be a national leader, and there is no better way than the province investing in decarbonizing through initiatives such as small-scale renewable energy technology and public transportation. It is imperative that our province take the reins on this movement and become a trendsetter. To stand ahead of the rest of the nation, and not just follow the lead of provinces like Alberta (oil) or Ontario (natural resources and mining). To set ourselves apart and have other provinces and territories look to us for guidance.

Banning plastic bags was a strong first step toward the greener future, and we are thrilled to see this coming into effect on October 1st . In addition to this, we hope, Premier Furey, that you will take larger and more active steps to implement real, lasting change in this province. We know you will face pressure from lobbyists and oil companies who have invested in our communities and will demand some kind of return. We know you will have outside pressures telling you to keep these entities happy because they write large cheques that help keep many of your party members’ communities, and many community projects, running. We ask that you face this pressure with resilience and community support. We are here, as are many other groups and private citizens in this province, to actively, vocally, and loudly support any major initiatives that your government makes to move away from fossil fuels and towards a greener, more sustainable Newfoundland and Labrador. We hope to see a future where all of our children and grandchildren are free from worry about losing their homes because of climate-related crises, or an abrupt drop in the price of oil. Where a woman who is in an abusive relationship can get on a bus and leave instead of worrying about having access to a vehicle, and more people can bus or ride bikes to work rather than relying on cars. Where young people are encouraged to stay in this province because it is innovative and forward-moving.

We were pleased with the cabinet you unveiled, particularly the focus on reconciliation with Indigenous peoples, growing the tech sector, and attracting newcomers to our province. It is our hope that you will guide your cabinet and ministers to work with community groups like ourselves to build a stronger, more innovative province that we can all be proud of. We understand that breaking routines and moving out of old patterns is hard, especially in the face of domineering industries like oil and gas. We beseech you, Premier Furey, to take our province’s best future interests in mind, and steer us into the next decade on a better path.


The Coalition for a Green New Deal in Newfoundland and Labrador

Photo submitted by CGNDNL.

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