We Canada was a voice for Canadians who believe sustainable development should be a priority for their country and for the international community. It aimed to influence the Government of Canada to recommit to creating a green and sustainable global economy and to be a leader on the international stage at the upcoming United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Earth Summit 2012 or Rio+20).
After surveying civil society, We Canada focused its work on three policies inspired by the Earth Summit 2012’s main themes and objectives, that were also submitted to the negotiating document for the conference, Zero Draft, as one of the Canadian civil society inputs. You can find the official submission posted on the official UN website here.
The first one is about values: Measuring What Matters. It’s about establishing a better measurement of national progress and well-being. Currently most nations use Gross Domestic Product (GDP) not only as a measure of economic progress, but also as an indicator of our collective well being. However, GDP does not capture the full range of economic, environmental and social realities affecting humans. The federal and provincial governments, as well as environmental groups and think tanks, have taken significant steps towards developing measures to complement GDP. Therefore, We Canada called for the Government of Canada to continue on this track and push for the development of global standards that measure our social welfare and happiness, as well as the health of our natural environment.
The second policy area that proposed was Getting the Prices Right. We all know what we pay for things. There’s a price. If we like it, we pay it. But there’s cost behind the price of which we’re less aware. In Canada, we consume an excess of products whose manufacture generates pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. This is partly due to the subsidies that Canada gives to the fossil fuel industries, which result in lower market prices. Even without subsidies these prices do not reflect the ecological and social costs of our economic activity. In an effort to solve these market distortions, and concerned about climate change, the provinces of Alberta, British Columbia, and Québec have begun to put a price on carbon. Based on these efforts, We Canada was asking the Government of Canada to eliminate fossil fuel subsidies, and introduce an ecological tax reform that includes price on carbon emissions. These measures would help put Canada on track as leaders in the creation of a global green economy.
The third policy area is about drawing a straight line between our country’s actions and it’s global outcomes: trade needs to be fair. This means acknowledging that Canadian’s economic activity has social as well as environmental impacts beyond our borders, and that we have a responsibility to ensure that our trade advances the social, environmental and economic well-being of other people and places around the world. Currently, this responsibility is shared by numerous institutions and cities across Canada (such as the University of British Columbia and the City of Vancouver) that have adopted Fair Trade practices. Building on these efforts, We Canada was asking for the Government of Canada to incorporate Fair Trade Certified products as a best practice in the Federal Sustainable Development Strategy. This would mean that our federal government would be committed to purchasing products that address environmental concerns and help improve the living conditions of people around the world.