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Alberta ‘Fighting Back’ Against Ottawa’s ‘Just Transition’ Plan for Oil and Gas Workers, Says Smith

The Alberta government is “fighting back” against the federal government’s proposed “just transition” legislation, says Premier Danielle Smith, adding that she is open to Ottawa simply helping oil and gas sector workers finding other jobs in related fields.

“We are not going to be shutting down our oil and natural gas industry,” Smith said on her Saturday morning radio show on Jan. 7, reported the Calgary Herald.

“We are not going to be transitioning our workers, who are in good, high-paying, meaningful, important jobs, into installing solar panels, which is the idiocy [federal Green Party Leader] Elizabeth May was first proposing when this kind of thing came out.”

The government’s proposed “just transition” legislation will aim to help workers in Canada’s oil and gas sector move to green energy jobs, says federal Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson, who recently said Ottawa is planning on moving forward with the legislation this year.

Smith also said that it’s not completely clear what the federal government is proposing through the legislation and that she’s had no communication with Ottawa about it.

“It doesn’t help when [Prime Minister Justin Trudeau] keeps on firing these shots across the bow at us without even picking up the phone and giving us a call to tell us what he has in mind,” she said.

‘Shutting In’

Smith said Alberta will be focusing on growing jobs in its energy sector through areas like hydrogen development and carbon capture, and the federal government is welcome to help transition workers into these fields.

“If that’s what the prime minister is talking about, is helping our oil and natural gas workers find other jobs in related industries, then we can work with him, but we are not going to be shutting this industry down,” she said, adding that the province is aiming to grow its oil and gas sector while also advancing green energy.

“That’s the mindset we’ve got to get into. That’s what we’re fighting back against in Ottawa. They think that the solution is shutting in, and they’re wrong.”

Wilkinson said last week he’s more concerned that transitioning from oil and gas to green energy will create too many jobs rather than put Canadians in the sector out of work.

“I said it many times publicly that I do not believe that the challenge we are going to face is that there are workers who are displaced that will not find other good-paying jobs. I am actually quite worried that there are so many opportunities … we will not have enough workers to fill the jobs,” he told CBC News.

However, federal Environment Commissioner Jerry DeMarco said in an April 2022 audit that he does not believe Ottawa is well enough prepared to help the majority of oil and gas workers transition to green energy jobs.

“The audit found that there was no federal implementation plan, formal governance structure, or monitoring and reporting system in place to support a just transition and that supporting legislation has been delayed,” he wrote.

Peter Wilson
Peter Wilson is a reporter based in Ontario, Canada.

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