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Sask. First Act may be used against federal ‘just transition’ legislation

The minister says the business court could examine the legislation, but says the province needs to see the bill first.

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The provincial government could use a tool within the Saskatchewan First Act to review Ottawa’s forthcoming “just transition” law, Attorney General Bronwyn Eyre said on Wednesday.

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During a scramble with reporters after a Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce luncheon in Regina, Eyre said while the province has yet to see the federal law before making a decision, the government may choose to consider the legislation through the proposed business court.

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As part of the Sask. In the first law, the province wants to create an economic tribunal that would serve to determine the harm and costs of federal policies. Decisions of this tribunal could also be used in future court cases.

The sack. The first law has not yet been passed by the legislature.

“Once we see what the bill says and what the actual impact of that bill could be, one of the instruments could be through the Sask. First legislation and the parallel business court,” Eyre said. “We’ll have to see what’s in the bill. We’re just very concerned about what’s going to be in it.”

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Earlier this year, Federal Secretary of Natural Resources Jonathan Wilkinson announced that Ottawa will advance “just transition” legislation aimed at preparing the workforce for the “low-carbon economy” while minimizing the impact on the energy sector .

Though details of the bill have not yet been provided, the move has become a light pole on the prairies, particularly in Alberta, where the economy here is largely based on natural resources.

Alberta Premier Danielle Smith has charged she will fight the law, arguing it will destroy jobs, although Ottawa says it is meant to create jobs.

Eyre said Saskatchewan will be monitoring the bill closely.

She said she will not accept legislation that destroys jobs or reduces the production of any product. The government will use “tools” to “protect and preserve both our jobs and our future,” she said.

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Attorney General Bronwyn Eyre speaks to the media after her presentation on the Sask First Act at a Saskatchewan chamber of commerce.
Attorney General Bronwyn Eyre speaks to the media after her presentation on the Sask First Act at a Saskatchewan chamber of commerce. Photo by KAYLE NEIS /Regina Leader post

Eyre said more than 70,000 people are directly and indirectly employed in the agriculture and energy sectors. But she couldn’t say how many of those jobs could be lost because of federal legislation.

“That is the main concern of the bill, what it will mean for which sectors and when,” she said. “If we look at the federal coal order, it has directly resulted in job losses in those sectors.”

Asked if she was prepared for another fight with Ottawa, Eyre said the legislation could be scrutinized for economic damage “and then we’ll go from there.”

“Anytime results and people are affected, we need to step up,” she said. “We must intervene and protect them.”

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In an emailed statement, Saskatchewan NDP energy critic Aleana Young said: “This latest dispute is a leadership failure by both the federal government and Scott Moe and the Sask. Group.”

Young said Ottawa must stop “unilaterally” implementing policies without working with the province, communities and workers.

She also argued that the prime minister’s “policies” on these issues have derailed jobs, investment and innovation.

“It’s time to grow up, put personal pettiness aside and sit down at the table to develop real opportunities for Saskatchewan,” Young said.

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