Below is the full presentation notes that RPIRG had prepared for today’s city council meeting. We wish we had the chance to read it in full, but talking about the outsized influence of the province and industry on our ability to even talk about divestment from sponsorship was deemed not germaine to the discussion.
We don’t fully agree with this condition. When considering how valuable it is or not to accept sponsorship from fossil fuel companies, we think that it’s important to point out that they have an outsized influence on how oil and gas are talked about.
We encourage you to reach out to your city councillors to show support for not only today’s amendment, but to say you look forward to them talking about this more in the future!
We feel it is a bit ironic that one of the key points we wanted to highlight was how people are often silenced in this province for talking about phasing out oil and gas because of the influence and power it has, but this was dismissed.
Good afternoon everyone, I’m Krystal Lewis and I’m the Executive Director of the Regina Public Interest Research Group (RPIRG), a resource centre at the university of regina with a membership of over 15000 students. We encourage and promote research and action towards social and environmental justice both on our campus and in Regina. RPIRG was a big supporter of all the efforts that went into adopting the renewable city motion a few years ago, and we also work predominantly with young people who will be the leaders, workers, and policy makers of the future.
I’m here today to talk about how encouraging it is to see that this council is talking about divestment and making good on the renewable city motion, and clear up some common industry misconceptions that get relentlessly repeated by everyone in this province. I also want to bring to your attention the hard work of the many young people in our city who have already been having these conversations and are already far ahead of us on planning for the future.
First of all, to even see this amendment introduced and talked about, already shows a very encouraging change in culture on council. I also want to add to the argument for you to continue having these conversations, and not let actions of the Premier discourage you. Having these tough conversations helps to expand our window of imagination on what our future can look like, which is good leadership.
TO THAT EFFECT, I’d like to quickly dismiss the 3 main industry misconceptions that are always pulled out whenever anyone tries to talk about divestment and phasing out oil and gas. I’m sure many of you are aware of these but I thought it would be good to challenge them on the record.
a) phasing out oil and gas is only anti-worker if you don’t care about or have never imagined supporting workers through a transition to other jobs. Starting to plan for this now means we can have a lot more time to figure out what those supports can look like.
b) the economy will not suddenly implode as we move away from oil and gas – yes it will require some tough decisions and changing hearts and minds which is hard work but in the long term it’s better to plan for a divestment and phase out now than to continue to scramble at the last minute during the next bust or when these companies move on to the next profit making industry.
c) and now the most absurd and patronizing misconception – the idea that we are hypocrites for driving a car or whatever if we demand alternatives to oil and gas. This one presupposes that all of the ideas and innovation humanity has ever devised appeared out of thin air, and not from people imagining better and working towards it.
The above misconceptions are not only misleading, they are also wilfully divisive, and I think you’d be hard pressed to find many examples of our government or industry publicly trying to correct them.
Look at the sea of delegates from industry lining up to deter you from this – they’ve directed all these energy and resources and lobbying at you, and all for a relatively minor amendment. And their influence extends to having the Premier leap to respond in just a few hours – a swiftness of response that I’m sure the city would love to have on other important issues.
A single industry SHOULD NOT have that kind of influence and power over our collective imaginations. All of us, including all of you on council, have the right to demand a safer, healthier world without intimidation. As a province and as a country we have to be stronger and break through the wall of silence and dismissal that exists when talking about moving away from non-renewable energy.
*In advance of the last federal election, climate change was identified through polling as the second most important issue for voters. This tells us that this conversation isn’t going away, people want to talk about it, and we need to take it more seriously. There are already many youth in this city who have been talking about and organizing events and teach-ins all about a more sustainable future, most visibly the Fridays for Future youth who have been regularly meeting and talking for the last couple of years. These young people want movement on this and are less afraid to talk about it.
In closing, I look forward to hearing more serious conversation about these kinds of issues from council, it encourages me and makes me want to be a lot more engaged at the municipal level. We need to be courageous in our thinking, not just for ourselves but also for the leaders of tomorrow who will be dealing with the consequences of our decisions today.