Federal government publishes plan for sustainable jobs

Natural Resources Secretary Jonathan Wilkinson speaks during Question Time in Ottawa in a file photo from 2022. Wilkinson led the development of the Government's Sustainable Jobs Plan, which was released on Friday.  (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press - photo credit)

Natural Resources Secretary Jonathan Wilkinson speaks during Question Time in Ottawa in a file photo from 2022. Wilkinson led the development of the Government’s Sustainable Jobs Plan, which was released on Friday. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press – photo credit)

The federal government released a sustainable jobs plan on Friday that aims to move workers away from the fossil fuel industry and toward clean energy.

The interim plan, which will guide the government’s approach to a “just transition” from 2023 to 2025, includes the establishment of a new sustainable jobs training center and a new government advisory body. The government will develop a full sustainable jobs plan every five years from 2025 onwards.

“Canada has what it takes to become the preferred supplier of clean energy and technology in a net-zero world,” Natural Resources Secretary Jonathan Wilkinson said in a press release.

“With this plan, the federal government is taking another step forward to ensure Canada’s workers have the skills and support needed to take advantage of this generational opportunity.”

The 32-page plan comes more than three years after federal Liberals promised a strategy to protect jobs as Canada transitions from a combustion powerhouse to a clean-energy economy.

The plan does not set a target for job creation or forecast how many jobs it will create in the sustainable energy sector. The government press release points to a report by the Royal Bank of Canada that says Canada could create up to 400,000 clean energy jobs through its efforts to move towards net zero.

The plan comes after two years of government consultations with provinces and territories, industry, indigenous peoples, unions and other stakeholders.

The government’s plans to move to a clean energy economy have drawn criticism from some Alberta officials, including Premier Danielle Smith. Smith said the “just transition” plan will slash jobs in Alberta’s oil and gas sector, and Alberta NDP chairwoman Rachel Notley called on the federal government to drop transition legislation that it plans to introduce later this year want to introduce.

On Thursday, Smith wrote to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau asking him to shelve the plan because it poses “an unconstitutional and existential threat to Alberta’s economy and the jobs of hundreds of thousands of Albertans.”

However, the plan states that a shortage of energy workers is a bigger problem than unemployment.

“According to numerous studies, in Canada we are much more likely to see an abundance of sustainable jobs with a shortage of the labor needed to fill them than a shortage of jobs,” it says.

Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press

Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press

The federal government has set a goal of reducing Canada’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 40 percent below 2005 levels by 2030 and achieving net-zero emissions by 2050.

“Financial markets around the world are increasingly pricing climate risk into investment decisions. Smart money flows away from assets that are inconsistent with a transition to a net-zero world and toward opportunities that are,” the plan reads.

“We have to run where the puck goes.”

“What Canada needs now is a dedicated plan for workers in a net-zero future. A plan outlining how we will keep workers at the heart of Canada’s energy sector for decades to come. A plan to create jobs, create wealth.”

According to the document, the government will introduce legislation later in 2023 outlining the government’s plans for accountability, commitment and transparency in the transition to sustainable jobs.

“We are pleased that the Liberal government recognizes the great opportunity to embrace a clean energy future,” said Charlie Angus, the NDP’s natural resources critic, in a media statement.

“But the question is whether the government will back those positive words with the massive investments needed to jumpstart a clean energy future.”

Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press

Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press

The plan says global demand for oil will fall by 75 percent by 2050, and demand for gas will be about half what it is today. But it also means that oil and gas are needed for non-combustion applications, such as As plastics, solvents, lubricants and waxes.

Amara Possian of, an environmental organization, said the plan doesn’t go far enough.

“This plan leaves too much leeway for the fossil fuel industry to block progress. Taking the climate emergency seriously means stopping public money being spent on wrong solutions like carbon capture, use and storage that will only lock workers into the dying age of fossil fuels,” she said in a media release.

“Canadians deserve a plan that’s aligned with climate science, guarantees a good, unionized, green job for anyone who wants one, and puts people first, not corporate profits.”


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