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This article was published 4/9/2019 (659 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Business owners across the province are banding together to call on party leaders to address how the economy and environment intersect and affect climate — and vice versa.
A coalition of 81 businesses — most of which are small and medium-sized companies across all sectors — have signed an open letter to the four major political party leaders to demand action on the growing risks that environmental degradation poses to the province’s economic well-being.
The letter does not endorse PC Leader Brian Pallister, the NDP's Wab Kinew, Liberal Dougald Lamont or Green party Leader James Beddome. Rather, it asks each candidate to take a "clear and strong commitment" on the climate file in the name of Manitoba companies.
"Failure to plan, act and adapt will impose greater financial costs on businesses and taxpayers," the letter states.
The signatories include companies from the agribusiness, tourism, media, manufacturing, education, energy, marketing, retail, engineering and construction sectors. They range from independent Chaeban Ice Cream to agricultural giant Canterra Seeds.
Derek Earl, a Winnipeg-based business adviser and co-leader of the grassroots initiative, said he believes the list is the "tip of the iceberg."
Earl said that in his discussions with business owners of all sizes, he's heard Manitobans are concerned about the risks climate change poses to infrastructure and employee health, as well as import and export markets. He singled out the negative effects of increased pollution and extreme weather on businesses.
The letter calls for the expansion of Manitoba's clean technology sector, investments in resilient infrastructure to protect supply lines and measures to protect employees from the impacts of environmental degradation. It also requests that politicians protect the province’s natural resources and ensure continued access to reliable, affordable and renewable energy.
While the hope is that the leaders take note of these issues and build relationships with businesses to address their concerns on the file, co-leader Tanis Ostermann, who signed the letter on behalf of her company CanSustain, a sustainability consulting agency, wants climate change to become part of the business conversation.
Ostermann said she wants companies to add it to the list of risk factors businesses weigh, just as they do with access to capital, daily operations and technological issues.
"Businesses have to be able to talk about this like they talk about any other business issue. It can’t be something we only associate with a certain political spectrum or a certain body of knowledge," she said.
Government action can then help companies mitigate those risks and adapt, Ostermann said.
"A lot of the things that businesses know that they need are things that are geographically or jurisdictionally outside their control to deal with," she said. "A company can’t put more money into floodway development. A company can’t unilaterally decide how they’re going to change a transportation line."
The letter was sent to the party leaders Wednesday morning. By mid-afternoon, Earl said the initiative had received one response. He declined to provide further information in order to allow all the leaders a fair chance to respond.
Maggie Macintosh reports on education for the Winnipeg Free Press. Funding for the Free Press education reporter comes from the Government of Canada through the Local Journalism Initiative.