How to stimulate Ontario's economy while protecting the environment at the same time was the focus of the Good Green Jobs for All conference in Toronto on Saturday.

About 550 environmentalists, members of the labour movement and people interested in social justice attended the sold-out conference which featured speeches and workshops.

“There’s a huge opportunity out there to put people back to work and to rebuild Ontario’s industrial base, its manufacturing base,” said Ontario New Democrat environment critic Peter Tabuns, who was one of the speakers at the gathering.

In an interview, Tabuns said 250,000 people in Germany work in renewable power, while in Toledo, Ohio, 6,000 people work in the solar industry — many of whom used to make windshields for cars.

In Pennsylvania, the government signed a $650 million alternative energy bill into force in July, he said, and the state expects renewable energy will employ 10,000 people.

Billions of dollars have been invested in producing electric car batteries in Michigan and $1 billion has been invested into electric car production in Australia, said Tabuns.

“You can just see there is a tremendous opportunity for us to get jobs that are going to make a difference in people’s lives, and clean up the air and deal with climate change at the same time,” he said.

Wind turbines, solar panels, biogas generation plants, or expanding deep-lake water cooling are just some of the green technologies Ontario should be taking more advantage of to create jobs, said Tabuns.

Tabuns cited a recent study that said up to one million trades jobs could be created if every home in Canada was retrofitted to make it more energy efficient.

The former executive director of Greenpeace Canada said the conference was not so much a discussion about technology as one about how to get our society moving on a green jobs initiative and how to secure investment and government support — both financial and legislative.

The reality is people are going to need jobs and we have to deal with climate change, said Tabuns, adding the most productive to take on those issues is investing in renewable power.

Tabuns pointed to Denmark's $6 billion-a-year wind power industry which employs more than 20,000 people.

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