As it begins its transition away from fossil fuels, Canada needs a new federal agency mandated to ensure that no one is left behind along the way, says the climate and energy program manager at Environmental Defence Canada.
“Whether through domestic policy or as a result of falling global demand, Canada will be moving away from fossil fuels, and the effect of this transition on workers and communities will be very real,” Aliénor Rougeot writes in a recent iPolitics op-ed. So “as Parliament resumes and [ministerial] mandate letters are published, we have high hopes that the government will incorporate a just transition into its mandates, and will do so through a joint ministerial effort, recognizing that this can’t be a one-person job.”
Stressing that a just transition will require an “all-of-government approach, not a single champion,” Rougeot identifies the top four ministers she believes must be in the ring to fight for a good outcome for those whose livelihoods still depend on fossil fuels and associated sectors.
Her first two ministers—Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson and Environment and Climate Change Minister Steven Guilbeault—are “obvious choices,” she writes, given that “both have worked on many climate change policies and have a solid understanding of Canada’s natural-resource sector.”
Pointing out that a just transition is, above all, about people who need and want well-paid work, Rougeot lists Labour Minister Seamus O’Regan as the third critical member of her proposed Just Transition Commission. In his previous role as natural resources minister, O’Regan launched a national public consultation process in July, asking Canadians to weigh in on the principles to guide creation of a Just Transition Advisory Body.
Finally, because a successful just transition will require “vibrant macroeconomic management and national industrial planning,” comprising support for emerging industries and maintenance of a “robust social safety net,” Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland must also play a critical role, Rougeot says.
Beyond its ministers, the commission “must include representatives from labour, industry, education, and Indigenous communities,” she adds. And it will need mechanisms to “foster the close collaboration of all levels of government, including Indigenous ones, so they all do their part and have their say.”