Let’s clear the air on Canadian Environment Week: More trees means better air quality for all

Trees just sprouting spring leaves.

It’s Canadian Environment Week. Years ago, the federal government proclaimed Canadian Environment Week to always include June 5th – which is not only World Environment Day, but also Clean Air Day this year. Canadian Environment Week also includes World Oceans Day, which is on June 8th.

The theme for World Environment Day this year is air pollution, complementing Clean Air Day. The United Nations says a whopping 92 per cent of the world’s population breathes polluted air, costing the global economy five trillion dollars for everything from treating illness to lost productivity.

More than a century of polluting the air has resulted in the climate change crisis. It’s not a hoax or something that will go away. But the Ford government doesn’t take climate change seriously, offering environmental policies that are a lot of hot air.

What the windbags in the Ford government want Ontarians to believe is that good environmental policies will raise the provincial deficit, are bad for your wallet and terrible for the economy.  But, in reality, measures to protect the environment are good for the labour market in so many ways. 

Investing in the research and development of green technology creates and protects jobs in a forward-moving economy that contributes to the future. Good environmental policy protects the health of workers and increases productivity, which is good for the economy and lowers health care costs.

And yet the Ford government has bulldozed so many of the province’s environmental programs and protections, including chopping the 50 Million Trees program which the Ministry of Natural Resources branded as “frivolous spending.” This has resulted in job and economic losses for the businesses involved in the program, and makes air quality worse for all of us.

It is common knowledge that trees absorb carbon dioxide along with other air pollutants and emit oxygen, which we all need to survive and thrive. At OPSEU, we don’t think investing in programs that clean the air is frivolous, especially when it protects our health and saves lives.

This Canadian Environment Week, let us remember that the air we breathe plays a vital role in keeping Ontario’s population and economy healthy and strong.

In Solidarity,

President Warren (Smokey) Thomas
First Vice-President/Treasurer Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida