The task force looking into a just transition for workers affected by Canada’s 2030 coal phaseout is asking the federal government to expand its five-year, C$35-million to cover job training and other services, National Observer reports.
The 11-member task force’s interim report to Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna has not yet been made public, but Observer learned about the recommendation in interviews with panel members.
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“It’s not an easy thing. It’s easy to say, ‘You’re going to phase out an industry, this is government policy’. The next thing is, what will take its place? Because you can’t just shut down a coal generation facility,” said Canadian Labour Congress President and task force co-chair Hassan Yussuff. “You’ve got to think, ‘OK, what will make up the electricity grid going forward? Is it reliable? More importantly, is it a good source for the provinces?’ And of course, you can’t do that stuff overnight.”
“We’re still reviewing the report,” McKenna responded November 2, during a visit to China. “But as we talk about the need to power past coal and our commitment in Canada to phase out coal by 2030, we know there has to be a priority to supporting workers and communities.”
The task force is looking at a just transition plan for the four provinces that still include coal in their electricity generation mix. In 2016, according to the National Energy Board, coal supplied 63.7% of the power produced in Nova Scotia, 49.3% in Saskatchewan, 47.4% in Alberta—which already has its own 2030 phaseout plan—and 20.7% in New Brunswick.
Yussuff said Alberta is “much more on the cutting edge of the phaseout” because of its deregulated electricity market and the transition funding available from the provincial government. “Other places that we did travel to—Saskatchewan—they had yet to start thinking about how they were going to deal with the coal phaseout.”
With Saskatchewan, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia all seeking equivalency agreements that will give them flexibility on drawing down coal, in exchange for greenhouse gas reductions elsewhere in their economies, Yussuff said the timeline for the actual phaseout will become more flexible—so federal transition funds will be needed for longer. “A transition will not happen at the same time, in the same province, in the same geographic location, so you need to bear that in mind,” he said.