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Toronto Hydro can create green jobs for all of us

The Good Jobs for All Coalition launched the Green Jobs for All at Hydro campaign at Toronto City Hall on Monday June 7, two days after World Environment Day.

The campaign calls on Toronto Hydro to invest in economic development, equity, and green energy, by promoting and installing solar panels on schools, hospitals and other public buildings across the city, and creating jobs for youth, new immigrants, and people of colour.

Speakers at the campaign launch included Chris Williamson, a pre-apprentice electrician, who recently graduated from the Hammer Heads program. A project of the Central Ontario Building Trades Council, the Hammer Heads program mentors, trains and places priority youth into trade apprenticeships, giving them a chance to move into decently-paid, meaningful careers.

Chris – who is 18 – spoke about how his placement as a pre-apprentice electrician gave him the opportunity to start saving up money so he can hopefully sponsor his mother – who currently lives in Jamaica – to Canada. Chris said he supports the campaign because he can see how it will create stable careers for his community and friends, who, unlike him, still work part time and casual minimum wage jobs at restaurants, movie theatres and the like.

Whitby resident, fellow speaker and electrician, Amanda Ehrke, also emphasized the job-creation benefits of Toronto Hydro investing in the green economy. “When I was in high school I wanted to become a marine biologist, but if I went down that path I knew I’d end up with student debt and no guarantee of a job,” she said. “I took my dad’s advice and became an electrician instead. My job allows me to support my two young children and my stay-at-home husband.” She continued; “Like many of the electricians in my local union, I’ve been trained to install solar panels and I’d love to do that, but we need to get people and utilities like Toronto Hydro to start buying green energy first.”

“Creating good green jobs is the lynchpin that will turn our community around,” says Nigel Barriffe, Rexdale resident and member of the Good Jobs for All Coalition. Currently a teacher with the Toronto District School Board in Rexdale, Nigel was born in Kingston, Jamaica, and immigrated to Canada with his family when he was a young child. After spending over 20 years in business, Nigel decided to use his skills and talents to give back to his community. “Rexdale has the highest unemployment rate in the city,” says Barriffe. “Toronto Hydro must work with us to create real green jobs for our residents now.”

Other speakers at the press conference included: Rosemarie Powell, member of the Jane Finch Green Jobs Coalition; John Camilleri, president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Local 1, which represents Toronto Hydro workers; and Carolyn Egan, president of the Steelworker Toronto Area Council.

Under the Ontario Green Energy and Green Economy Act 2009, renewable energy companies, utilities and homeowners can receive provincial subsidies – through the feed-in tariff program – provided they meet domestic content rules, which require 40 to 60% of the goods and services used originate from Ontario.

The Good Jobs for All Coalition is calling on Toronto Hydro to take advantage of the subsidies available in the Green Energy Act and plan for an aggressive expansion of Toronto Hydro’s role in renewable energy generation in partnership with other public institutions, such as the city, school boards, colleges, universities and hospitals.

The Good Jobs for All Coalition is also asking Toronto Hydro to make local procurement of green products a priority in all activities, use their buying power to attract green manufacturers to Toronto and/or help existing manufacturers to retool; and work with local training organizations and Toronto’s Social Development Office to ensure equitable access and inclusion of workers of colour and youth from marginalized communities in new job opportunities in the sector.

The campaign launch was attended by a diversity of community groups, unions, elected officials, and environmental organizations, including the Toronto & York Region Labour Council, the Council of Agencies Serving South Asians, the Chinese Canadian National Council – Toronto, the Jane/Finch Green Jobs Coalition, the Society of Energy Professionals, the Canadian Tamil Congress, Environmental Defence, Toronto Environmental Alliance, and more.

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