Opinion: Ottawa Just Transition dispute to become main issue in Alberta election

Opinion: Ottawa Just Transition dispute to become main issue in Alberta election J7LEYEOXORFCFGOOORNUA2EZZA

Oil field pump jacks in rural southern Alberta on November 9, 2022.TODD ​​KOROL/The Globe and the Mail

The Federal Liberals’ Just Transition strategy is turning into the 2023 feud that won’t stop. The two women who would be Alberta prime ministers say they will fight the plan.

And even with the falsehoods circulating regarding a federal briefing on the matter, the earlier this year timeline for the legislation and miscommunication about the idea risks making “take on Ottawa” a campaign theme. number 1 for the next Alberta provincial government. choice.

What had been taken up as an issue by the ruling United Conservative Party this month broke out this week with the issuance of a 2022 briefing paper in what the federal government calls the Just Transition or Sustainable Jobs strategy. Even Alberta NDP leader Rachel Notley told reporters on Wednesday that the plan is “fundamentally flawed” and “cannot go forward in its current state.”

With the legislation due to be introduced earlier this year, the federal government says it’s a strategy to help workers transition to the jobs of the future. The UCP, on the other hand, says it’s a plan to liquidate Alberta’s oil and gas industry.

It is a part of the 81-page document that talks about the high-paying clerical and administrative jobs that are up for grabs and that is getting the most attention. There is a discussion that there is “larger-scale transformations” to “help meet government emissions reduction targets.”

In this paragraph, list jobs by sector: agriculture (about 292,000 workers or 1.5% of Canada’s employment), energy (about 202,000 workers or 1% of Canada’s employment), manufacturing (about 193,000 workers or 1% of Canada’s employment). ), buildings (about 1.4 million workers or 7 percent of Canada’s employment) and transportation sectors (about 642,000 workers or 3 percent of Canada’s employment).

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Despite Ottawa’s pending policy rebranding, Alberta sees ‘just transition’ as anything but

Tar sands executives concerned about not having enough manpower for a ‘just transition’

The federal government says this is a list of jobs that exist in specific sectors now, it demonstrates the focus on those industries that will need additional support, and it is not eliminating anything. It also notes that this memo was intended to be used as a talking point and is not a policy document.

On the part of the Alberta UCP, this hateful or misspelled section is too juicy to withstand attack. Prime Minister daniel smith it’s even willing to use quotes that don’t exist. On Wednesday, Ms Smith posted a video in which she says her news story turned her stomach, because it’s worse than she feared. She later said, erroneously, that the document states: “Canadians who are put out of work by climate change programs can always get jobs as janitors.”

The document doesn’t say that: Ms. Smith appears to be picking up quotes from Blacklock’s Reporter, the news outlet that originally broke the news of the document’s existence. The only mention of a janitor in the document is another close line: “Some green jobs will not require workers with green skills to perform their jobs (i.e., janitor or driver working for a solar energy company).”

But here’s why the UCP narrative on this is compelling to some. Liberal MPs do not represent the parts of the country that invest the most in oil and gas or agriculture. The federal government is planning an ambitious industry-specific oil and gas emissions cap by 2030.

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Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson and Associate Finance Minister Randy Boissonnault (one of two Alberta MPs in the ruling Liberal Party) often talk about working with and aligning with tar sands producers on zero targets net. But at the same time, the Prime Minister gives interviews where the abbreviation is Alberta is a rogue province that needs to be controlled.

“One of the challenges is that there is a political class in Alberta that has decided that anything to do with climate change is going to be bad for them or bad for Alberta,” Justin Trudeau. he told Reuters this month.

Alberta has a history of dragging its cures on environmental initiatives. But the province of big industry that economically outweighs its weight has a much steeper climatic hill to climb than provinces that run on hydropower and real estate returns.

He was also the first in Canada to put a price on greenhouse gas emissions from big emitters – 16 years ago – and almost every politician in Alberta Know that the world is changing. It is how fast it moves where there is debate.

Another key part of this week’s controversial briefing note highlighted that the oil and gas sector accounts for 27 percent of Alberta’s GDP. That percentage is less than 3 percent in most other provinces, showing just how regionally specific the industry is. But anyone with imagination can think about how they would feel if more than a quarter of the GDP of their region or province of origin were at stake.

The much larger and longer-term debate is whether “the transition to a low carbon economy,” as discussed in the memo, is being demanded and driven by investors around the world or by the federal government. The answer is both.

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On Wednesday, Ms Notley said she has been clear with MPs that even “the spectrum” of federal politicians in Ottawa debating legislation that will disproportionately affect hundreds of thousands of workers residing primarily in Alberta is dead wrong.

There is no doubt that in all this the provincial election is in the foreground. The UCP constantly tries to portray Ms Notley as in league with NDP federal leader Jagmeet Singh and Mr Trudeau. Ms. Notley directs most of her criticism at the UCP, which she says is grossly incompetent on the power file and others, and is “completely focused on the conflict and its own internal chaos.”

But Ms Notley adds that Ottawa is moving forward with the Just Transition/Sustainable Jobs legislation “while we’re in the middle of what is almost an election campaign…without us at the table it’s just not acceptable. It’s not how you run the country.”

If you have any lines with those liberal federal and NDP politicians, you are surely raising your objections. If the campaign issue for the May ballot becomes a matter of protecting Albertans from the intrusion of Ottawa, as opposed to one focused on health care, education or inflation, it could give Albertans an advantage. the CPU. Ms Smith and the UCP have been harping on this issue for much longer, and her would-be supporters are more motivated by it.

But federal politicians could argue that the timetable for what they see as key legislation cannot be dictated by provincial politics. And perhaps some in Ottawa are also thinking in crude political terms and would rather have a Conservative in office in Alberta, as a convenient foil.