Removing roadblocks to developing a ‘green’ economy
March 3, 2009
March 3, 2009
As much as I like to criticize the Ontario Liberals, I have to say I’m impressed by Premier Dalton McGuinty’s acknowledgement that Ontario must reinvent itself and focus on creating an economy based on sustainable energy projects.
Ontario’s manufacturing jobs are disappearing and they’re not coming back. At the same time, there’s a strong push for sustainable energy projects and the province needs to capitalize on that demand. But if that’s to happen, we need to change our mindset in a number of ways.
There were two recent reports in the GTA media that caught my attention. First, there was the report that recyclables collected in blue boxes in the GTA are being shipped to China where they’re being cleaned, sorted, converted to re-usable materials and then shipped back to Ontario. How counterproductive is that? The article went on to say we simply don’t have the labour force willing to do the dirty work here in Ontario at a competitive cost.
Give me a break. With unemployment rates climbing, surely we have the manpower willing to do this job here at home – granted, at significantly higher wages than Chinese workers are earning. My father runs a unionized plant that competes with non-unionized companies. Obviously, his labour costs are significantly higher than his competitors’. However, he’s ultimately able to provide a cost-competitive product, because they’ve been vigilant about improving efficiency in every aspect of the production process. You can’t tell me Ontarians lack the ingenuity to make it feasible to manage our own recyclables here at home. Yes, our labour costs would be higher but surely that can be offset by reducing costs elsewhere. Start by eliminating the cost of shipping containers full of junk to China and back in the first place.
I know that sorting and cleaning recyclables is not a glamorous job, but you’re out of work you’ve gotta do what you’ve gotta do to eek out a living. I know this. When I first moved to Calgary, I was up at 4 a.m. every morning delivering newspapers I felt I should be writing for. I’m pretty sure if we have the facilities here at home, we can find the workforce that would be grateful to have a job to report to each morning.
The second article was similarly discouraging. Apparently, we’re sending truckloads of organic waste collected through municipal green bin programs to composing facilities in the US. Ontario composting facilities are said to be running beyond capacity or have been shut down due to “odour problems.”
This is another classic example of NIMBY-ism preventing Ontario from creating jobs and lessening its environmental footprint. Apparently nobody wants a stinky old compost facility in their neighbourhood. Think of the jobs that could be created by building and operating incinerators here in Ontario. Also, think of the environmental benefits of dealing with our own waste rather than trucking it down to the States for the Americans to deal with. We must weigh the emissions and fuel consumption created by each of those truck trips against the reduction in methane emissions created by organics in the first place. Are we really any further ahead?
The NIMBYs have also reportedly put a damper on the province’s plans to put windmills along Lake Ontario shorelines. If Ontario really wants to become a leader in sustainable energy development and build an economy based on this emerging industry, then it needs the support of its residents. This is no time for NIMBY-ism. We need to welcome the construction of organic waste processing facilities and windmills here in Ontario. Just don’t put them in my backyard.
James Menzies is editor of Truck News magazine. He has been covering the Canadian trucking industry for more than 15 years and holds a CDL. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @JamesMenzies. All posts by James Menzies