As the federal public safety minister toured Georgian College’s latest facility focusing on research and innovation, Adam Angelo wanted to know more about the sustainability of the country’s programs to achieve a net-zero environment.
Marco Mendicino toured the Peter B. Moore Advanced Technology Centre on the Barrie campus on Thursday, checking out the college’s research and innovation approaches, its micro-grid technology and wastewater initiatives.
While addressing the gathering, Mendicino talked about the government’s own green programs outlined in last week’s federal budget to address the “existential threat” of climate change.
The Georgian College building, he said, is the product of a collaboration which included $10.8 million in federal funding and is intended to stimulate ideas and efforts in the collective goal of creating a cleaner world.
“What you are now standing in is the living embodiment of the best ideas that Canada has going for it,” Mendicino told the gathering.
Angelo, a first-year electrical engineering student, asked about the impact of lithium mining, which is a key component of batteries for electric cars, particularly given the drive toward net-zero environment.
“I feel that most of the papers written and talking about net zero in Canada tend to overlook the environmental impact of all the lithium mining, the production of solar panels,” said Angelo, who has an interest in improving the methods of producing power.
Mendicino said the goal is to mine those natural resources in a net-zero approach as well to create lower emissions by using technology. Plans are currently underway to mine a lithium deposit in northwestern Ontario.
The minister also said the government’s goal to reach a net-zero environment by 2050 is not going to be easy.
“We want to get to 40 per cent below 2005 emissions levels by 2030,” he said. “Time is of the essence.”
He pointed to a series of programs to meet goals like reducing emissions and investing in the growth of low-carbon industries and local climate action with the help of significant federal funding.
“We’re putting significant investment dollars into creating the next generation of mode of transportation in e-vehicles,” he said.
Honda Canada’s recent announcement of a $1.38-billion investment, which includes government funding, in its Alliston manufacturing facility to build electric cars is an example of that future, he said, as is the promised development of a new next-generation battery plant for electric vehicles in Windsor.
Mendicino said Georgian’s newest facility helps to tie those ideas together by training the workforce that will contribute to the development of more sustainable approaches and also through the building’s practical use of some of those technologies.
“Everything that you’re doing here… is totally in sync with the work the government of Canada is trying to do in investing in you, in investing in your ideas so we can create that green and sustainable future,” he said.
Kevin Weaver said the catalyst for Georgian’s Peter B. Moore Advanced Technology Centre was the federal funding, which was then followed by contributions from all the other levels of government along with fundraising.
“This building is really about advancing technology,” said Weaver, who is soon to become the college’s president, adding the building is about research and innovation in technical and environmental sustainability.
That allows the Barrie-based learning centre to become more sustainable, he said, but also expose the students, staff and faculty to the technology.
“The nice thing about micro-grid technology is that it can always be extended and added onto, and that’s what caught the minister’s attention,” said Weaver.