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WTO ruling can’t end fight for Ontario green jobs: Steelworkers

Ruling against domestic renewable energy manufacturing a signal global trade rules need to be changed, union says.


May 7, 2013
by PLANT STAFF

TORONTO – A World Trade Organization ruling against Ontario’s incentives for domestic manufacturing in renewable energy industries is a signal that global trade rules must be changed, according to the United Steelworkers (USW) union.

“Ontario should not give up the struggle for good green jobs,” said Ken Neumann, USW National Director for Canada. “We should not be allowing unelected bodies to wipe out initiatives that are good for our climate and good for our economy at the same time.”

The WTO has ruled to strike down the Ontario Green Energy Act’s domestic content requirements for companies seeking to supply wind and solar power to the provincial electricity grid.

The Act requires wind and solar farms to use a percentage of in-province parts and labour.

The requirements for a minimum percentage of in-province labour and equipment spurred a green jobs boom in Ontario, Neumann noted.

“Although the Green Energy Act is not perfect, it has helped to create an estimated 20,000 jobs and generate billions of dollars in investment in Ontario,” he said. “This tremendous progress and hope for the future is now threatened by the WTO ruling.”

The WTO ruling supports a joint challenge by Japan and the European Union against Ontario’s Green Energy Act.

“Once finally adopted, this ruling would give Japan and the European Union the right to slap duties on Ontario exports,” Neumann said. “This is just the latest example of trade agreements being used to override our sovereignty and our freedom to implement environmental and economic development initiatives.”

“This should not be the end of the fight. The WTO ruling clearly shows the need to change the direction of trade negotiations to support jobs and the environment. Our federal and provincial governments must act.”

Quebec is being sued for its moratorium on fracking in the St. Lawrence valley, while a nearly completed agreement between Canada and the European Union could forbid provinces and municipalities from using their own purchases to boost local economies, Neumann pointed out.