Alberta PM says Ottawa’s “intentions have not changed” as Feds release sustainable jobs plan
The federal government released its long-awaited Sustainable Jobs Plan on Friday, but the plan failed to allay Alberta Premier Danielle Smith’s concerns about the impact on oil and gas workers.
The new report says the clean energy economy will create so many jobs that there will not be enough workers to fill them. The document outlines the interim plan for 2023-2025, with follow-up plans expected every five years after 2025.
The plan includes a new government office to oversee the process, training programs, indigenous counseling and engagement, and better data to fully understand the jobs that exist now and that may exist in the future.
Ottawa has also recommitted to lowering climate targets from fossil fuel production. The plan has not yet been scrutinized by the legislature – it is expected to do so later this year.
On Friday near Calgary, Smith said she was glad the federal government dropped the phrase “just transition,” but added she was disappointed with many details of the plan.
“I worry that although they changed the words, the intentions haven’t changed,” Smith said.
A day earlier, Smith wrote Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in an open letter that she would work with Ottawa on certain climate and energy-related initiatives, but with the “non-negotiable” caveat that Ottawa refrain from introducing any new federal law or policy that does so would impact Alberta’s oil and gas sector.
“We have their attention,” Smith told an audience at an event on Tsuut’ina Nation.
“You know we’re angry. They know we will fight back against them. We will not allow this industry to be shut down, but they are far from meeting us halfway.”
In a statement released later Friday, Smith said the plan’s omission of any liquefied natural gas (LNG) strategy was “nonsensical” and said she would be in touch with the federal government in the coming weeks.
“This ongoing pattern of unilateral federal action in areas of provincial jurisdiction must stop immediately,” she said.
University of Calgary professor Sara Hastings-Simon, who is also on the board of directors of the Pembina Institute, a clean energy think tank, said the plan is “pretty high-level,” meaning it doesn’t go into too much detail.
But she added that the opposition, from Alberta’s premier, did not reflect industry reality.
“It is very clear that we are in a world going through an energy transition. And it’s not really a federal or provincial choice at this point as to whether there’s an energy transition,” she said.
She added that many countries have signaled their intention to reduce fossil fuel consumption.
“I don’t want to downplay that difficulty… It’s very real and it’s very challenging for people and communities, but trying to somehow brush it away or not acknowledge that it’s happening just leaves… those communities kind of worse,” she said.
Alienor Rougeot, program manager at Environmental Defense Canada, said the plan is long overdue, and while the report contains positive fundamental elements, she acknowledged that without embedding it in the law, it’s difficult to know exactly what the plan will look like .
She added that the report relies heavily on relatively new sectors.
“It seems premature and potentially risky to bet so much of Canada’s future on some of the unproven technologies like carbon capture and fossil hydrogen. And that’s a real concern for me,” she said.
Industry leaders have sought a more robust commitment from Ottawa to subsidize the cost and operation of carbon capture and storage (CCS) facilities, similar to the financial support offered in the United States.
The Alberta government has also touted CCS as key to their development of blue hydrogen from natural gas.
Adam Legge, President of the Business Council of Alberta, said he will “read[the plan]”carefully as an opportunity.”
Rather than suggesting that Alberta be left out of the economy of the future, he believes Alberta can capitalize on its wealth in natural resources while decarbonizing.
“From our reading, the (state) definition of sustainable jobs is broad,” he said. “It doesn’t look to exclude jobs in areas like (carbon capture and storage) or emission reduction technology that would be used in industries like oil and gas or agriculture.”
However, according to Legge, the federal government must work with the provinces to develop a far-reaching industrial strategy and keep up with the clean energy technology incentives offered by the United States, Legge said.
“You need to create the economic base for job creation, rather than trying to get people skilled and trained first and then hoping for the jobs and industries to come up,” he said.