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Alberta premier, environment minister challenge yet to be tabled federal 'just transition bill'


Alberta's premier and environment minister are taking aim at the federal government's intention to create a 'just transition bill' to help any displaced energy workers find new jobs in a net-zero future.

First promised by the federal Liberal party in 2019, the "just transition legislation" pledge at the time included ensuring energy workers and communities involved in the oil and gas sector have a future in green energy as Canada moves to reduce emissions.

Premier Danielle Smith says Albertans are "not interested" in having the largest industry in the province be "phased out of existence."

"The prime minister wants to phase out the workforce for the largest industry in Alberta and hasn't bothered with getting Alberta's input," Smith said. "We have had no consultation, no discussion."

"Oil and gas — and its thousands of by-products — will be a part of the global economy for decades, and Albertans own one of the largest reserves of it on the planet.

"Albertans, not Ottawa, will manage and diversity [sic] our resource sector how Albertans see fit," the premier added.

Last election, the Liberal platform said on top of a just transition bill, a re-elected government would create a $2 billion futures fund to help provinces like Alberta and Saskatchewan "grow new job opportunities" in green energy.

Establishing a "Clean Jobs Training Centre" was also highlighted in that platform as a way to enable skilled and trade workers impacted by the energy transition to "gain new skills to be on the leading edge of zero carbon industry."

Despite a federal bill having yet to be tabled, Sonya Savage, environment minister, said on Tuesday that a just transition "should be of concern" to Canadians.

"This approach will be detrimental to Canada's economic recovery," Savage said in a social media statement. "Alberta is proud to be one of the most responsible producers of oil and gas globally. We have been a world-leader for decades."

"We expect the federal government to stand up for our world-leading oil and gas employees, instead of trying to eliminate their jobs," she added.


Richard Masson, World Petroleum Council Canada chair, said at this point, all the federal government has is a set of "high-level principles" when it comes to helping oil workers jump to new jobs.

"We want to get to a lower carbon future," Masson said. "I don't think there's an end for oil and gas production from Canada anytime soon. We are the fourth largest producer in the world. We have very high regulatory standards."

"But one of the things that governments have been struggling with is how do those people get adequately cared for so that they are not against the transition but can benefit from it by moving to industries that are going to grow."

In his view, the transition is already underway, with coal use in Alberta being replaced with natural gas at power plants and renewables like solar and wind seeing the fastest growth in the province compared to other provinces.

"The just transition idea on its face is valuable," he added. "I don't believe this [federal] bill itself is about trying to take away jobs. It's more about how do you support people when they've lost their jobs."


Masson, also a University of Calgary School of Public Policy executive fellow, believes the bigger challenge is if industry can meet federally mandated greenhouse gas emission targets at a quick enough pace.

"You could argue that the cap legislation, here's the stick, and the just transition is the carrot, saying we are trying to support you," Masson explained. "So the stick is, we are going to move away from industries that produce greenhouse gases, that could result in job loss."

His worry is that efforts to lower emissions, like carbon capture, can take four to five years minimum to design, go through consultation and receive the proper permits.

"We have to put in place targets for greenhouse gas reduction that actually line up with what is achievable within the system we have in this country," Masson said. "So that we don't have to do things like cut production, which nobody wants. Everybody's been trying to actually increase production in the face of Russia's invasion of Ukraine."

With CTV News Edmonton's Saif Kaisar Top Stories

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