Just Transition Task Force
The Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change (Framework) was developed to meet Canada’s emissions reduction targets, grow the economy, and build resilience for a changing climate. However, this Framework will have an impact on communities and workers in Alberta, Saskatchewan, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia that rely on coal-fired electrical generation for their economic base. The Government of Canada recognizes that there needs to be a just transition in our move towards cleaner energy sources so that these communities do not bear the full weight of our broader environmental goals. As such, Budget 2018 saw the announcement of $35 million over five years to assist coal affected communities and workers. Western Economic Diversification Canada (WD) and the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA) have been asked to deliver these supports and to work with our federal and provincial partners to assist communities.
Initially, WD worked with Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) to support ECCC’s Just Transition Task Force (JTTF), a group of non-government labour, environmental and community authorities tasked with developing recommendations on mitigating the impacts the transition will have on communities and workers. WD produced a handbook of Alberta and Saskatchewan coal communities, featuring economic, educational and population dynamics to assist both the JTTF and WD in understanding the underlying drivers of these communities. The JTTF recommendations, due December 2018, will form a strong backbone to the work that WD will undertake over the next five years.
Alberta and Saskatchewan face unique challenges regarding the scope of the impacts and WD has worked hard to develop flexible, tailored approaches based on strong partnership with the communities involved. Building trust and starting from a place of community knowledge has allowed WD to overcome some initial community concerns about the impact the move to a low carbon economy may have.
In order to continue to build strong projects WD will adapt to the changing economic environments. Some of the concepts WD will work with include:
- Flexibility to match the varying timelines for plant and mine conversions/closures and varying levels of employee layoffs. This includes a model for the Budget 2018 allocation ($25 million for WD) that sees a peak level of funding in years three and four in order to allow communities to build their plans in a meaningful way.
- Support communities that have started to form committees to address the concerns of their workers and citizens.
- Act as a convenor to help communities connect with the best possible options to suit their needs in order to alleviate some of the pressures that communities feel in navigating the programming options available to them through different government departments.
- Recognize and help communities celebrate their coal past while assisting them to transition. Coal forms a strong part of the cultural identity in many communities and it is important to respect that identity and the historic contributions of those communities.
- Develop “lighthouse” projects, where applicable, that help communities see early, tangible efforts of Canada’s assistance to build morale. A recent example of this is the November 16, 2018 announcement of WD funding to support two transition centres in the Alberta communities of Forestburg and Castor. These centres will act as community hubs for employees who are facing layoffs and for community members to build their economic diversification plans.
- Act as a partner and “walk the path” with communities by acknowledging that communities must lead in their diversification efforts. This requires relationship building that sees WD staff willing to go to communities and acknowledge the realities they face.
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