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Community Summary Report: Newfoundland

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Community Partner name: Dan Meades

Conversation date: Newfoundland Feb 24th, 2022

1. Introduction

A. Summary

The was consensus around the outsized impact climate change has on vulnerable people. People living in poverty not having the ability to adapt to short- and medium-term changes brought on by extreme weather events. 

Providing additional income to ensure that people were living above the poverty line was seen as a potential solution, but it was clear that this did not need to be an overarching piece of public policy to make differences in peoples lives. Just providing additional income or services in advance of predicted weather events would make for a good short-term policy at the municipal level. 

The group agreed that while individual action on climate change as well as it’s negative impacts on vulnerable people was valid and important, it was ultimately higher order governments responsibility to address these problems and it was our role, as voters, to ensure they knew the issues were of import. 

B. About the Green Resilience Project

This community conversation was part of the Green Resilience Project, a Canada-wide series of conversations exploring and documenting the links between community resilience, income security and the shift to a low-carbon economy. Working with a designated partner organization from each community, the Green Resilience Project aims to create spaces in which a wide range of participants can talk through the links between climate change and income security, and identify possible next steps to build or maintain community resilience in the face of these challenges.

This  Community Summary Report  reflects what we heard and learned in our community’s conversation. Each Project partner organization across Canada will be producing a similar report. In March 2022, the Green Resilience Project will produce a final report summarizing findings across conversations, which will be available to the public and shared with Environment and Climate Change Canada. 

Funding for the Green Resilience Project is generously provided by Environment and Climate Change Canada’s Climate Action and Awareness Fund. The Project is is managed and delivered by Energy Mix Productions, Basic Income Canada Network, Coalition Canada Basic Income – Revenu de base, Basic Income Canada Youth Network, national experts and local partners

C. About the Community Partner organization

Dan Meades is the provincial coordinator of the Transition House Association of Newfoundland and Labrador and a long-time advocate for eliminating poverty. Dan is the form co-chair of the Basic Income Canada Network. 

D. Why this community was selected to have a conversation

Newfoundland plays a unique role in conversations about climate change and income security because there is a large oil extraction industry in the waters off Newfoundland’s shores and Newfoundland has currently, and historically, higher than the national average poverty rates. 

Newfoundland’s economy is seen as tied to carbon intensive industries and as such there is often a dichotomous view between address climate change and economic prosperity. 

Newfoundland has seen extreme weather events in the last three years that are significant outliers from previous weather patterns. People are realizing that these are a part of what is described as “climate change”

Newfoundland has always felt isolated, geographically as well as politically, from the rest of Canada. This isolation allows the island to feel a very strong sense of community and social cohesion and a history of mobilizing to help those in need. 

E. About the conversation participants
# of conversation participants: 8

Participants were invited based on their geographical diversity, lived experience, expertise, and community leadership. 

I was disappointed with the number of people who participated in the conversation. There had been a significant news story the day before our conversation that was about deaths of homeless individuals in Labrador and the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador’s role in those deaths and it had a very shilling impact on people’s willingness to speak out about public issues. I would have preferred to have greater participation from the Provincial Government but overall, I was happy with the representation. We offered stipends to anyone who would need one in order to attend and offered community groups the ability to have their program participants be involved in the conversation.   

I had a series of brainstorms sessions with community leaders to ensure we had invited people with diverse perspectives to ensure a fruitful and representative conversation. 

F. The Community Conversation 

I used the conversation guide provided and did a virtual conversation with a number of one-on-one conversations to supplement those who attended. I tried to keep the conversation very open ended and did ask a lot of follow up questions to ensure people had the chance to speak openly and freely. I framed the conversation by saying that people did not need to be experts in any field to fully participate, and that their feelings were a valid part of the conversation. 

The conversation was a success, and the only challenge was the timing for the news story the day before. 

2. What We Heard

This section summarizes participant responses to the questions asked during the conversation breakout sessions. For each question, please give a brief summary of the key points and ideas discussed across your breakout groups. Please include a selection of 5-10 anonymous quotes (total) to help illustrate key ideas.

  1. How are the changes to our community’s environment and economy discussed in the introduction affecting you, your family or the community as a whole?
  • Extreme weather events are more frequent and sever and it appears that a city with build infrastructure as old as some of Newfoundland’s has little chance of survival. 
  • Everyone is being forced to spend more for basic needs, the unpredictability of rising prices seems to make it impossible to plan for the future. 
  • There is a sense of helplessness when the problem is as big as climate change is. 
  • “So I live in a lower income neighborhood. And when you mentioned all these things, I was thinking about my neighborhood, and when there’s a weather event, and stores are closed, or anything like that, you know, people are always told to get like three days worth of food just in case like I don’t live in a neighborhood where people can do that.”
  • “So many things to try and bring in here, working in poverty reduction, trying to end poverty is exhausting for an awful lot of people. I’m very attracted to the idea of trying to work in the climate change area, because younger people care about the climate there and they care about the impending disaster. And they say, Why do you want us to work on PharmaCare and dental care when you’re handing us a, a world that’s been burnt to a crisp, but at the same time the older advocates in and we’re struggling with the aging in place of their advocates”
  • “half the world doesn’t even believe there’s a climate emergency are thinking it’s more or less well, the younger generations will take care of that, like, oh, I have other things to do, I’m going to someone else is going to have to take care of that for us.”
  • People struggle with how to have these conversations with their young children without overwhelming them or passing on a sense of hopelessness. 
  1. How are these environmental and economic changes related to each other? 
  • “the generation of folks coming in for help with career development, are not looking to be a teacher, a nurse, a secretary. they’re thinking about what problems can I solve to change this world to make it a better place. And if folks doing the work in current employment, don’t understand the intersections of the Climate Reality, then they’re not doing their professional due diligence, of understanding how that impacts that new generation.”
  • As employment in the oil and gas sector changes Newfoundland needs to do a better job of preparing workers for what comes next, our social safety net cannot afford to support everyone currently working in Alberta.
  • Everything is related to the climate emergency. Nothing we do and no decision we make should be taken in the absence of its view of how it will impact our carbon footprint. We have gone past the point of only choosing some things to think of as “green” or not. 
  1. What are some possible solutions to the challenges we’ve discussed that will help the community respond to climate change and create income security for all community members? 
  • Addressing the gaps in the social safety net would make a huge difference. Allowing people to make choices from a place of real choice instead of scarcity would mean some individual actions would be possible that currently are not. 
  • CERB worked well and proved it can be done, a basic income for all Canadians would make a huge difference 
  • A justice lens in our policy development would help inform which choices mattered and had a real and lasting impact. 
  • “t’s always a living wage and a basic income because you need a living wage for the people who work but you also need to Keep in mind that people who cannot or do not work. And there’s always, you know, this talk of the undeserving poor, but having people who are living in poverty is harmful to the whole community, it’s not just harmful to the people in that are living in poverty.”
  • “That’s why the 80% of the people who were doing okay, do not care about the 20%, who were marginalized, or vulnerable, or on the fringe, that we need a global caring, we need to get back to values and caring, and thinking that we are intersected and connected that we have to get back to that.”
  • A theme of free and accessible education emerged here as well. 
  1. How do you think these solutions can be achieved to build, maintain or strengthen community resilience? Who is responsible for these changes—individuals, community groups, governments or a mix? 
  • there was a recognition of the importance of individual choice but ultimately it was view as a higher-order government problem to solve. Even a global intergovernmental response was identified as being required. 
  • A discussion about the deserving and the undeserving emerged that was very interesting. OAS and the Child Tax benefit were cited as examples. If you are very old or very young you are seen as deserving of a life out of poverty, otherwise you are not. This dichotomy undermines the advocacy efforts for eliminating poverty. 

3. What We Learned

This conversation was very interesting. There was largely consensus on the call about the importance of the issue as well as the connection with income. There was however no shared understanding of the scope and scale of the solution set as it related to climate action. On one hand participants felt like too much was being left to the next generation to solve, and on the other participants were thinking of ways to incentivize young people to work on the problem. A robust social safety net was agreed upon but it was clearly stated that it needed to be paired with increased responsibility from the private sector as well. 

  • To what extent do you think your conversation built wider and deeper understanding of the links and synergies between community resilience, livelihoods, income security and the low-carbon transition? Please explain your response.
    • 1 – Not at all
    • 5 – Very much so

I think people were able to see different points of view on the impacts of weather events, and therefore other aspects of climate change, on people living in poverty. 

  • To what extent did participants demonstrate increased awareness of climate change and their own capacity for climate action? Please explain your response.
    • 1 – Not at all
    • 5 – Very much so

It seemed as though most people felt they had a high level of awareness and their own capacity for climate change at the start of the conversation. 

  • To what extent were new relationships between community partners and conversation participants created and fostered? Please explain your response.
    • 1 – Not at all
    • 5 – Very much so

Newfoundland is a small community and as result most people were aware of each other, their groups, or communities before this call started.

  • To what extent did your conversation create opportunities to foster ongoing discussion of solutions related to climate change, income insecurity and community resilience? Please explain your response.
    • 1 – Not at all
    • 5 – Very much so

This call seemed to ignite interest in people to create some local collection impact activity on the issue of basic income specifically. 

  • In your opinion, what does the community need to do next in order to build or maintain resilience in the face of climate change and rising income insecurity?

A theme that I did not expect was that most participants did not feel as if they knew enough or had enough specific expertise to impact public policy as it related to climate change. This was less a concern about issues surrounding income security. People need a local and trusted source for climate information that would be seen as locally specific and had local outcomes and actions attached to it. If the questions “what can Newfoundlanders do to address climate change and what will happen to Newfoundland is not taken”

4. Next steps

A basic income forum is planned for March 31st in Newfoundland and Labrador, and I think the participants of these conversations are more likely to attend that forum after this conversation. I think the linkages between climate change and income security were well articulated by participants which showed a strong understanding of the issue set. The solution set was attributed to higher-order levels of government and a sense of hopelessness that individual action would make a difference was prevalent even at the end of the conversation.