Last week, Corporate Knights gathered leaders for our first ever virtual gala, attended by Finance Minister Bill Morneau. Dozens of corporate leaders called for a bold federal investment in a green recovery. Here is the open letter signed by nearly 50 corporate leaders released today.
Dear Minister Bill Morneau,
As leaders of major corporations in Canada, we are focused on our country’s safe road to recovery. Canadians are experiencing significant economic hardship because of the COVID-19 pandemic – challenges that will continue for months and possibly years.
Around the world, countries have adopted unprecedented policies during this crisis. Canada’s federal and provincial governments have acted boldly and creatively with their emergency relief measures, with positive results. However, for a full-scale recovery, even bolder action will be needed.
We have the opportunity to emerge from this moment with a resilient economy that creates prosperity for more Canadians. We will get there by working together with all the industries that have led us to where we are as a nation today — from natural resources to telecommunications, manufacturing and financial services. We must build on and reinforce that foundation to set us up to thrive in the future. To get there, we must leverage our strengths and invest in our most promising assets that align with growing global markets. Canada already has a competitive advantage in four of them: low-carbon natural resource commodities, zero-emissions vehicles, smart buildings, and sustainably produced food. All are poised for explosive growth going forward.
On the natural resources front, Canada is a treasure trove for the low-carbon commodities that the world needs to decarbonize, and we are among the most carbon-efficient producers of those commodities. It’s well-known that we are the fourth largest oil producer in the world. It’s less well known that our vast supplies of bitumen are uniquely suited for producing carbon fibre for strong, lightweight materials that would be the top choice for manufacturing electric vehicles, and a host of other applications if we can crack the cost nut. Canada also generates more renewable electricity than any country except China, which creates a path for us to be a supplier of choice for the growing clean hydrogen market. In addition, Canada has an abundance of bio-based natural resources, the waste residues of which are ideal feedstock for renewable jet fuels, a market which is taking off.
On the vehicle front, we are a top-five exporter by value globally and a top-five producer of the minerals that are essential for battery production. We have the resources and industrial ecosystem to be a North American hub for battery production and zero emissions vehicles, including freight trucks and buses.
Looking at buildings, Canada is one of the world’s largest commercial landlords. Twelve of the top 50 real estate investors in the world are based in Canada, and we are recognized as global leaders in green building. With green renovations taking centre stage in recovery packages across the globe, Canadian real estate investors possess the know-how and property tech required to surf this long-term wave.
In food, Canada is the world’s fifth-largest agricultural exporter and is number one in pulses. By restoring soil carbon, we can feed a growing global appetite for sustainably sourced food, including plant protein.
If we invest in these tangible markets, it would also be a shot in the arm for Canada’s financial services and technology sectors. Toronto Finance International estimates there’s potential to grow annual revenues in low-carbon banking, insurance and investment by $110 billion in the next five years.
All of these markets are fast-growing but in a state of flux. Whether Canada becomes a supplier or a buyer in the coming decades depends on our decisions today.
Doing this will not be easy. It will require a significant burst of investment in the first couple of years buttressed with complimentary policies over the next five. Some will raise concerns about the costs, but if we learned anything from the last economic crisis, it’s that austerity is not a growth strategy, rather it leads to lost opportunities for people and businesses alike. Other countries have learned this lesson, and Canada’s industrial competitors will be investing boldly: South Korea is structuring its economic recovery plan as a “Green New Deal,” and the European Union is allocating 25% of its proposed €750 billion recovery package to green projects and strengthening connectivity networks.
We also recognize that building back better is an opportunity for all Canadians to work together. We need to engage broadly. This means forming meaningful partnerships with Indigenous communities in terms of equity ownership, employment, and procurement, and it also means breaking down systemic barriers that for too long have disproportionately held back women and people of colour.
Now is the time to be courageous and bold. We encourage governments to lead a collaborative and bold economic recovery building on the strengths of our existing economy and talent to capture the growth markets of the future.
As corporate leaders, we are committed to doing our part to build back better towards a more resilient — and inclusive — economy.
Mike Andrade, CEO, Morgan Solar
Céline Bak, President, Analytica Advisors
Brian Bentz, CEO, Alectra Inc
Guy Bourbonnière, Vice President Trane Commercial HVAC – Eastern Canada, Trane Technologies
Christine Bergeron, Chief Member Services Officer, Vancouver City Savings Credit Union
Erica Brabon, Director, Energy & Sustainability, Black & McDonald
Kim Caron, President, Executive Mat Group
Jim Colthart, Chairman, C3 Global Technologies, Inc. & EnerSysNet Canada Inc.
Guthrie Cox, President, View Canada
Mike Crawley, CEO, Northland Power Inc
Darren Entwistle, CEO, Telus Corp
Jason Fitzsimmons, Chief Corporate Affairs and Customer Care Officer, Hydro One Ltd
Sabrina Geremia, Country Manager, Google Canada
Mike Gerbis, CEO, The Delphi Group
Michael Gonsalves, President, Carrier Enterprise
David Grinstead, CEO, Signify Canada
Anthony Haines, CEO, Toronto Hydro Corporation
Toby Heaps, CEO, Corporate Knights Inc.
Gord Hicks, CEO, BGIS
Matt Jamieson, CEO, Six Nations of the Grand River Development Corporation
Gord Johnston, CEO, Stantec Inc
Philippe Jetté, CEO, Cogeco Communications Inc
Faisal Kazi, CEO, Siemens Canada
Melissa Kennedy, EVP, Chief Legal Officer & Public Affairs, Sun Life Financial Inc
Laura Kilcrease, CEO, Alberta Innovates
Mark Little, CEO, Suncor Energy Inc
Marcelo Lu, President, BASF Canada
Karn Manhas, CEO, Terramera
Alex Lau, VP, Golden Properties Ltd
Don Lindsay, CEO, Teck Resources Ltd
Michael McCain, CEO, Maple Leaf Foods Inc
Carol McGlogan, CEO, Electro-Federation Canada
Dermot McMorrow, General Manager – HVAC Division, Mitsubishi Electric Sales Canada Inc.
Paul Mertes, CEO, Circuit Meter
Terri Lynn Morrison, Director of Strategic Partnerships, Indigenous Clean Energy
Thomas Mueller, CEO, Canada Green Building Council
Derek Nighbor, CEO, Forest Products Association of Canada
Nathalie Palladitcheff, CEO, Ivanhoé Cambridge
Josipa Petrunić, CEO, The Canadian Urban Transit Research & Innovation Consortium (CUTRIC)
Gregor Robertson, EVP, Nexii
Bill Strohecker, Country Managing Director, ABB Power Grids Canada
Sandra Stuart, CEO, HSBC Bank Canada
Ralph Torrie, President, Torrie Smith Associates
Susan Uthayakumar, CEO, Schneider Electric Canada
Nadeem Velani, EVP & CFO, Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd
Annette Verschuren, CEO, NRStor Inc.
Anthony Viel, Managing Partner and Chief Executive, Deloitte Canada
Tamara Vrooman, CEO, Vancouver City Savings Credit Union
Rob Wesseling, CEO, The Co-Operators
Dan Wicklum, CEO, The Transition Accelerator
Casey Witkowicz, CEO, RYCOM
Mary Ann Yule, CEO, HP Canada
Supportive quotes from business leaders
“The notion of ‘flattening the curve’ with coronavirus has taught us a valuable lesson when faced with a serious risk: act now or face dire consequences. It’s a similar warning with climate change, a seemingly slower moving problem when compared to COVID-19, but just as urgent for the present and future health of people and the planet. This is why I believe investing in a bolder green initiatives is important.”
–Susan Uthayakumar, president, Schneider Electric Canada
We believe this crisis is an opportunity to reset our country’s assumptions, and to build a lower-carbon economy that also provides jobs and wealth for more people. That’s why Vancity is supporting Build Back Better. We believe a strong, prosperous economy requires strong local communities. As a member-owned, values-based financial institution, we’ve always put the needs of people and communities first. We believe that’s more important now than ever before.
–Christine Bergeron, incoming Interim CEO, VanCity