Memo shows the federal plan won’t just cause upheaval in oil and gas provinces but will eliminate or reduce whole sectors of the Canadian economy
By Don Braid, National Post, Jan. 17, 2023
The federal plan to “transition” jobs and regional economies in the fight against climate change is even more vast and all-embracing than suspected by the most suspicious sovereignty fan in Premier Danielle Smith’s office.
“When I saw the memo, I felt a pit in my stomach,” Smith said Monday. “It’s worse than I feared.” She’s talking about a memo made public by Blacklock’s Reporter, a diligent subscription news service based in Ottawa.
This document is national dynamite packaged as question-and-answer notes for Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson, the Liberals’ lead minister on “just transition.”
If nothing else, it should convince people across the country that the federal plan won’t just cause upheaval in oil and gas provinces, but nearly everywhere.
One eye-catcher is the memo’s point that not all green workers will require special skills — janitors and drivers, for instance. But nearly everybody else will.
“‘Just transition’ isn’t about a transition at all,” said Smith. “It’s about eliminating entire sectors of our economy and hundreds of thousands of good Alberta jobs deemed too ‘dirty’ by elites in Ottawa.
“I will fight this debacle of an idea with every tool at Alberta’s disposal, and I hope other provinces will stand with us.”
Smith’s rhetoric is highly charged, but the memo supports her conclusion about the scope of Ottawa’s plan. It says, in detail: “The transition to a low-carbon economy will have an uneven impact across sectors, occupations, and regions, and create significant labour-market disruptions.
“We expect that larger-scale transformations will take place in agriculture (about 292,000 workers; 1.5 per cent of Canada’s employment);
“Energy (about 202,000 workers; 1 per cent of Canada’s employment);
“Manufacturing (about 193,000 workers; 1 per cent of Canada’s employment);
“Buildings (about 1.4 million workers; 7 per cent of Canada’s employment);
“And transportation sectors (about 642,000 workers; 3 per cent of Canada’s employment.”
That adds up to 13.5 per cent of Canada’s total workforce, in all parts of the country.
Major impact on oil and gas provinces
The memo recognizes, however, that the impact will be much heavier in oil and gas provinces, especially Alberta.
“The oil and gas sector in particular is a large contributor to the GDP of Alberta and Newfoundland, at 27.3 per cent and 36.2 per cent respectively, affecting about 187,000 workers in Alberta and 13,300 workers in Newfoundland, compared to less than three per cent in any other province.”
At stake is a full one-quarter of Alberta’s economy, with all the royalties, income taxes and other economic benefits that come from oil and gas, both for the province and the federal treasury.
It’s impossible to see how even the most brilliantly magical of job transition plans could replace the majority of all that.
The hit extends to “larger-scale transformation” for agriculture, another massive economic sector both in Alberta and in Saskatchewan. Do they plan to replace wheat with, say, avocados?
“This makes the NEP look like a children’s play toy,” Smith said, referring to the Liberal National Energy Program of 1980. “And where is (NDP Leader) Rachel Notley on this? She should be standing with me and every Albertan against it.”
Notley said last week that national emission targets are unrealistic from both the federal Liberals and NDP.
“Both are wrong, and I’ve been very clear on that,” she said. “That has been my position and I will advocate that position with every tool and tactic that I can muster, should I be given the opportunity to do that job, because it’s not practical.”
The Liberals say many people in affected industries can be retrained for the green version of those industries. Not all of those jobs will require major retraining, just adjustments.
But their plan is so universal, and the outcome is undefined, that even the most ardent advocates of climate action should feel some serious doubts.
Legislation to enact all this is coming soon.
Meanwhile, they’re working as usual. The federal transition money inevitably goes where the votes are. The huge EV battery projects now being subsidized in southern Ontario show that not much has changed.
Federal powers resemble wartime
In 2019, Green Party Leader Elizabeth May preached a national climate campaign with federal powers to rival those of wartime.
“It places Canada on something equivalent to a war footing to ensure the security of our economy, our children and their children — our future.
“It is a call for ‘all hands on deck.’” she said.
It seems the Liberals listened. But for most of the country, their mammoth aspirational plan makes it impossible to see the future, the jobs, or even the deck.