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'He has no business dictating to us': Alberta premier rails against Just Transition


A contentious piece of proposed federal legislation is setting off fireworks between Alberta’s government and Ottawa.

Touted as Just Transition, the bill would disproportionately impact several sectors in Alberta that are more carbon-intensive.

In oil and gas, Alberta has 187,000 workers in the sector, more than 36 per cent of Alberta’s GDP contribution.

To meet Ottawa’s emissions targets, the legislation would eliminate jobs in the following sectors, with the promise to transition the workers to cleaner energy industries:

  • Agriculture: 292,000 workers; 1.5 per cent of Canada’s employment;
  • Forestry: 35,000 workers; zero per cent of Canada’s employment;
  • Energy: 202,000 workers; one per cent of Canada’s employment;
  • Manufacturing: 193,000 workers; one per cent of Canada’s employment;
  • Buildings: 1.4 million workers; seven per cent of Canada’s employment; and
  • Transportation: 642,000 workers; three per cent of Canada’s employment.

Ottawa says the job numbers in each sector referred to the numbers that currently exist that could be affected by decarbonization and not loss of jobs.

Premier Danielle Smith says the prime minister has been non-existent in discussions with the province about the proposed legislation.

“He has no business dictating to us,” said Smith in an interview with CTV News on Tuesday.

“He doesn't understand our economy. He doesn't understand the sector.”

Smith says Justin Trudeau has only spoken with her once since she became premier.

“I have had one conversation, which is a courtesy call, with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, where I told him that Alberta was onboard with the notion of carbon neutrality,” Smith said.

Trudeau was asked about Just Transition on Wednesday, but would not divulge many details about it, or the division it has caused.

“I know that workers in Alberta and indeed across the country are going to be there to deliver for Canadians and for the world,” Trudeau said.

“The energy workers that we rely on, the natural resource workers will continue to be essential parts of our economy moving forward and this government will always be there to recognize their work and to support them into a world that is changing.”

Alberta’s NDP leader Rachel Notley agrees with Smith that the legislation needs to be scrapped unless there is consultation with Albertans.

But Notley blasted Smith for being incompetent in her handling of the proposal, adding she should force her way into consultations.

“Both the federal and the provincial government are to blame for the state of affairs,” she said.

She believes Ottawa needs to speak with regular Albertans about the transition proposal.

“That conversation should not be happening in the absence of Albertans, on many fronts … Without us at the table, it’s just not acceptable. It’s not how you run the country,” she said.

Smith says the province will use every power it can, including the potential use of the Sovereignty Act to ensure this future legislation has no impact on Alberta.

“Just Transition is extreme environmental language,” Smith said.

“It was coined by extreme environmental groups who want to completely phase out the oil and gas and fossil fuel sector. They (Ottawa) use that knowing that was going to be the way it was interpreted.”

In interviews with the Canadian Press this week, the CEOs of some of the biggest oil sands companies in Alberta say transitioning their workforce for a net-zero emissions future isn't about cutting jobs, but creating them.

Cenovus CEO Alex Pourbaix says the consortium of oil sands behind an alliance to decarbonize their companies estimates that reaching their goal of net-zero emissions by 2050 will create 35,000 jobs.

Derek Evans, CEO of MEG Energy, says he is actually worried Canada doesn't have the labour force needed to get the decarbonizing job done.

The Liberals have promised such legislation for more than three years and are expected to introduce it in the House of Commons sometime this year.

(With files from The Canadian Press) Top Stories

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