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Feds to lay out ‘sustainable jobs’ plan for energy transition ahead of legislation

OTTAWA — The federal government will show Canadians its plan to protect jobs during the clean energy transition no later than the spring, Natural Resources Secretary Jonathan Wilkinson said on Wednesday.

OTTAWA — The federal government will show Canadians its plan to protect jobs during the clean energy transition no later than the spring, Natural Resources Secretary Jonathan Wilkinson said on Wednesday.

Legislation governing how this plan will be implemented will not come for some time after, however.

The Liberals have been promising a Just Transition Act since at least 2019, and Wilkinson has said it will finally happen this year.

That prospect sparked an outcry in Alberta, where the energy transition will have the biggest impact and where provincial politicians are heading for a hard-fought election this spring.

Alberta Prime Minister Danielle Smith has requested a meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to help shape this legislation. Her main opponent, NDP leader Rachel Notley, called on the federal Liberals to postpone the whole thing at least until after the election, which is scheduled for late May.

But Wilkinson said the bill, which he didn’t offer a timetable for, will be somewhat secondary to the action plan, which lists what the government intends to do. He said the plan will hopefully be announced by the end of March, although it “could slip into the next quarter.”

“The legislation will guide future efforts and create a governance structure, but it is the policy statement that I think will be most impactful,” he said. “And like I said, we’ll be releasing that in the coming months.”

He said the plan is based on lengthy consultations with provinces, labor organizations, businesses and indigenous communities. Ultimately, there will be no surprises, he said.

The concept of a “just transition” has existed for several decades, but it took on new meaning after the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement committed most of the world to switching to cleaner energy sources to slow climate change.

The idea is that any effort to reduce dependency on fossil fuels must ensure that people working in the energy industry can move into new sectors and are not left out in the cold.

The “just transition” debate exploded last month when Smith slammed the federal government for a briefing document that listed the number of jobs that could be affected by the ongoing global transition away from fossil fuels and toward renewable energy.

Smith misinterpreted the total number of jobs in the affected sectors as meaning that the number of jobs the federal government expected would be lost and vowed to fight “that idea of ​​a just transition” with everything it had.

A week later, the Prime Minister wrote to Trudeau, warning him that the Ottawa-Alberta relationship was “at a crossroads” and calling for Alberta to be included in any discussions about a “just transition” into the future.

She also said the legislation should not be called a “just transition” bill, but a “sustainable jobs” bill.

This request met with interest and even amusement from the federal government, since several federal ministers had already signaled their intention to use the term.

“I think I made it pretty clear that I don’t like the term ‘just transition,'” Wilkinson said Wednesday.

“I prefer ‘sustainable jobs’. I think it speaks to a future where we try to build economic opportunity for all regions of this country, especially Alberta and Saskatchewan.”

Smith will be in Ottawa next week as part of a first ministerial meeting on health care, but there’s no sign she’ll get a one-on-one with Trudeau on sustainable jobs.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on February 1, 2023.

Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press

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