Despite Harper's best efforts, the Green Economy grows in Canada

For the past decade economic policy in Canada has focused overwhelmingly on a specific cluster of extractive industries seeking to expand their unsustainable and volatile markets. This reckless and narrow sighted gamble has not paid off, Canada's economy is sputtering, but there's hope.

Despite urban economic development and green economic development being undervalued, if not ignored by the Harper Government, emerging green sectors show great promise in Canadian cities and regions. The clean energy sector now employs more people than the Alberta tar sands, the latter of which the Harper Government has spent tens of millions of tax dollars lobbying on behalf of, and tens of billions more subsidizing according to the International Monetary Fund. Meanwhile to the south of us the renewable energy sector is growing ten times faster than the rest of the American economy. We don't want to be laggards on this transition to a cleaner energy economy. Green jobs are about more than renewables though, as exciting and important as they are. Here's a snapshot of Canada's future economy - it's here right now and governments at all level should pay more attention.


The Van East Greens invited a dozen interested Vancouverites to join Green Party of Canada Leader Elizabeth May and I to see firsthand some innovative and exciting examples of the green economy at work right here in the riding of Vancouver East, where I’ve worked in Sustainable Community Economic Development for the past several years. These companies are creating a range of high-skill and low-barrier jobs doing such things as materials upcycling and remanufacturing, waste diversion, urban farming, remediation and re-localizing small scale manufacturing. If you're curious about joining us for the next tour just register here. It's by donation.


From 4:00 to 6:00 in the afternoon we led a walking tour through False Creek Flats and Strathcona where a strong green cluster of industries has been growing for years. Something championed by the leadership of the Strathcona BIA and the stewardship of capable and visionary entrepreneurs in both the for-profit, non-profit and co-op sectors.

These types of businesses and emerging sectors are instructive for informing sound economic policy for an increasingly urban and low-carbon, post carbon, 21st century Canada.


The first site we visited was the Vancouver Food Pedlars, an urban farming cooperative that grows organic micro-greens and sprouts year round in a repurposed shipping container and self-contained elevated benches. They have four worker owners and have begun adding staff that may become members of the co-op eventually too. Chris Thoreau, company founder, shared with us the story of Vancouver Food Pedlars and discussed the growth of urban agriculture in Vancouver, something his thesis at UBC examined. Chris and I are both co-founders of the Vancouver Urban Farming Society. I used to deliver sprouts on bike for him too!

The next site was WoodShop another worker owned co-op upcycling waste diverted wood into a range of furniture and other products. And yet another Chris on site to share with us his story! Woodshop grew out of Groundswell, a grassroots alternatives to business school that I teach at and mentor startups at here in East Van. After graduating Chris has remained active as a course facilitator and mentor to incoming cohort members too, and in fact one of the last cohort members recently joined WoodShop as its newest member-owner.


After woodshop we walked over to Maker Labs, the largest Maker Space in Canada at nearly 30,000 square feet. From industrial textile looms to 3D printers to soap manufacturing to coffee roasting and even canoe making, the space was buzzing with activity. An incredible range of small-scale manufacturing goes on here, with classes on how to make all sorts of things. SFU was even hosting a class on site when we arrived.


 Derek, co-founder of Maker Labs welcomes Elizabeth and our tour group and cautions us not to touch any buttons or levers....


Tour Guide Julie holds up a face mask from one of the 3D printers at Maker Labs.

We then enjoyed some drinks and snacks at the Heatley, the awesome new neighbourhood restaurant and watering hole on the corner of Hastings and Heatley. Also happened to notice flowers on their tables from a Green Business just next door - Floral and Hardy Edible Plants.

Small and medium sized businesses in cities, including these types of green businesses, are crucial drivers of Canada’s economy and also contribute to the unique character of our communities. When government asks itself what it can do for Canada’s economy it should be starting with what’s going to help small businesses - not major polluting industries and multinational corporations.

Green MPs will be working in Ottawa to support small businesses and green businesses driving Canada’s future economy by:

  • Establishing a federally-funded Green Venture Capital Fund to support viable small local green business start-ups;
  • Setting up a Green Venture Capital Funding Program providing matching federal funds for locally-raised venture capital up to a set limit per community;
  • Reducing the paperwork burden on small businesses by eliminating duplicative tax filings and red tape. Government agencies will operate using shared information from the same database;
  • Bringing in legislation to require a consideration of the impact on small business of all new legislation, based on a similar law in the European parliament.

For more information on how the Green Party is Canada’s champion of small business visit here.

Two of the ventures we visited were co-ops and the Green Party also embraces cooperative enterprise and will be working in Ottawa to aid growth in the co-op sector by:

  • Working to have the Government of Canada examine the laws, regulations, and tax system of Canada to determine how they may be changed to enhance opportunities for co-operatives, including co-operative federations incorporating banks or credit unions, such as the highly successful Mondragon and Valencia co-operative federations of Spain. This will require revisiting and repealing changes to the tax treatment of Credit Unions in several recent omnibus bills;
  • Launching a Federal Co-operative Investment Strategy with two components: a Canadian Co-operative Development Fund and a federal Co-operative Investment Plan;
  • Making the federal Co-operative Development Initiative permanent and expand it into the new area of conversions of existing business that are contemplating winding up into worker co-operatives;
  • Re-establishing funding for housing co-operatives through a newly mandated Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) to help solve the growing problems of homelessness and shortage of affordable housing;
  • Fostering the creation and/or conversion of energy co-operatives to give more power to citizens and regions.

For more information on the Green Party’s commitment to cooperatives visit here 

The next Green Economy Tour will be looking at some larger Green Businesses here in Vancouver East and will be on bike! To join us just register here (By donation)


  • commented 2015-07-19 13:15:29 -0700
    Thanks Erika, the response from those who took the tour with us was pretty much the same. Super fun and informative, and inspiring. Be well!