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A new solar panel array is installed in Scugog, Ont. on April 27, 2016.Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press

Executives from an array of low-carbon industries are attempting a show of strength on Parliament Hill this week, at a precarious point in Canada’s efforts to keep pace with the United States and other countries prioritizing low-carbon economic growth.

Although representatives of specific sectors frequently show up in Ottawa to press members of Parliament for support, the gathering on Tuesday and Wednesday – featuring approximately 45 leaders of companies, industry associations, organized labour and Indigenous business groups – is aiming for something wider and more symbolic.

Based on interviews with some of those representatives and with the climate-focused Ivey Foundation – which along with the non-governmental organizations Clean Energy Canada and the Transition Accelerator is co-ordinating the effort – the idea is to have different corners of the clean-economy transition form a united front in a way they have not previously.

Branded New Economy Canada, it’s something of an experiment in whether co-ordination can build a degree of cross-partisan consensus about the need to implement regulatory reforms, industrial subsidies and financing mechanisms, and other measures to expedite that transition.

The list of participants has clearly been curated to showcase the range of economic activity that organizers hope will prove irresistible, even to politicians for whom Canada’s emissions-reduction commitments may not be a priority.

It spans from renewable electricity producers such as Northland Power Inc. and energy storage players such as Hydrostor Inc., to mining giants including Teck Resources Ltd. TECK-B-T and the more junior E3 Lithium Inc. ETL-X, to environmental, social and governance-focused asset managers such as Addenda Capital Inc. And it runs the gamut from Canadian startups to domestic wings of multinationals, such as GE Canada.

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Participating industry organizations represent both relatively new segments of the economy (the Battery Metals Association of Canada) and established sectors with decarbonization ambitions (the Cement Association of Canada). Others range from the First Nations Major Project Coalition to the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.

The plan for them in Ottawa is to break off into small groups, each featuring a cross-section of sectors, which will sit down with MPs and political staff to press their case. Organizers said they have secured meetings with members of each federal party.

That in itself may be a small victory. Part of the impetus behind the event is to light a fire under the governing Liberals to swiftly follow up on commitments in this spring’s budget to stay competitive with the United States as it rolls out hundreds of billions of dollars in clean-economy spending through its Inflation Reduction Act. But there is also a perceived need to engage with the opposition Conservatives, who under Pierre Poilievre’s leadership have thus far displayed little interest in climate-related policies, to try to ensure they maintain such efforts if they win government in the coming years.

“When I look at what we build, these are multidecade projects that involve hundreds of millions of dollars,” said Colleen Giroux-Schmidt, a vice-president with another participant, Quebec-based Innergex Renewable Energy Inc. That points, she suggested, to the need for investors to have confidence that policies will be durable through changes in government.

The program for a New Economy Canada reception being held on Tuesday evening also seems intended to catch the Tories’ attention. One of its featured speakers is former Conservative MP Joe Preston, who now serves as mayor of St. Thomas, Ont. – home to the massive new Volkswagen electric-vehicle battery plant that Ottawa will heavily subsidize.

Somewhat less clear is the precise message that companies will be delivering to MPs during all their meetings – or how New Economy Canada might evolve after this week’s initial event.

It is, by the acknowledgment of those involved, a fairly ad hoc undertaking. And there is recognition that messages must be kept fairly broad, given differing policy needs of the sectors involved, and limited work put in thus far to determine where they intersect.

Some of the companies are nevertheless eager to seize the chance to convey to policy makers their own key messages, applicable to the fields they’re in, if not the entire sweep of low-carbon industries.

Nouveau Monde Graphite Inc. vice-president Julie Paquet – whose company touts its sustainable mining practices but whose first major project, in Quebec, has attracted local concern about environmental effects – expressed hope about being able to “deconstruct some of the myths that might be plaguing some of our companies.” That includes, she said, trying to persuade left-of-centre MPs to set aside pre-existing impressions of how the mining sector operates.

Addenda Capital, meanwhile, sees some opportunity to push for policies that provide greater accountability and transparency to guide investors through myriad net-zero and ESG commitments currently being made. One example, cited by senior director Andrea Moffat, is trying to get the government to act on the framework for a green taxonomy – a rulebook for what qualifies as a sustainable investment – that was developed last year by a government-appointed expert panel.

Then there is Alberta’s Kiwetinohk Energy Corp. KEC-T, which occupies a unique place as a self-described energy transition company that produces oil and gas, but is also developing renewables and wants to primarily become a supplier of low-emissions electricity. “I honestly don’t know why we were invited to this particular event,” chief executive Pat Carlson said, but he’s going because he sees it as an opportunity to educate politicians about his company’s unusual story and ambitions.

Whether it coalesces into a coherent case – or offers lessons about what works and doesn’t, in terms of enlightening politicians about the path to clean-economy competitiveness – will seemingly determine if the effort proves a one-off or develops into something more structured.

“I don’t think two days in Ottawa will be enough education,” said Ivey Foundation senior adviser Merran Smith. “But we’ll see how it goes and determine next steps.”

For now, there is a feeling among the businesses that at least trying to capture politicians’ attention with a shared vision, rather than advancing interests as smaller emerging sectors that don’t all yet have as much clout on their own, is overdue.

“We tend to be siloed into our different segments of the economy,” said Ms. Giroux-Schmidt, of Innergex. “We’ve been looking for a unified voice like this for quite a while.”

Follow Adam Radwanski on Twitter: @aradwanskiOpens in a new window

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