Canadian Labour Congress President Hassan Yussuff poses for a photo, Thursday, February 14, 2019 in Ottawa. A task force to help Canada’s coal workers adjust to life after coal power says is warning that support for action against climate change will be at risk if Ottawa doesn’t embed policies to help coal towns transition. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Support for climate change action could wane if no help for coal workers: report

There are 16 coal-fired generating stations left in Canada, and nine mines for the ‘thermal coal’ that feeds them

The federal government has to prepare communities that are economically dependent on coal for a future when their products aren’t needed if it wants to maintain public support for climate-change action, says a task force on making that transition work.

The Task Force on Just Transition for Canadian Coal Power Workers and Communities is filing its final report today, with 10 broad recommendations.

Underlying many of them is a warning that not easing the anxieties of workers who will be affected by a planned phaseout of coal-fired generating plants will come with a political, and possibly even environmental, cost.

“Widespread support for continued climate-change action is at risk of eroding if strong just-transition provisions are not embedded in climate-change and labour policy,” the report reads.

The task force wants the policies written into legislation to make them difficult to undo and to provide longer-term certainty for the affected workers and communities.

Canada has ordered that all existing coal plants be closed or converted to natural gas before 2030. It is part of Canada’s plan to reduce emissions to 70 per cent of what they weir in 2005, by 2030. In 2016, the most recent year emissions statistics are available, coal accounted for nine per cent of all Canada’s emissions and 71 per cent of emissions from generating electricity.

The task force, set up by the federal government in 2018, has spent the last 10 months hearing from people in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, the four provinces that still use coal as a source of electricity.

Hassan Yussuff, president of the Canadian Labour Congress and one of the co-chairs of the task force, said the body’s very existence is proof the government understands it “can’t simply phase out the industry without thinking of the workers and the communities.”

The task force wants funding to research the impact of the coal phase-out, local transition centres to help provide retraining, relocation and social supports, a pension-bridging program to help workers nearing the ends of their careers make it to retirement without hurting their pensions, and eventually a job bank to help match the skills of coal workers with potential new job opportunities.

Yussuff said this is a unique opportunity because the coal industry is being phased out over time. Most often communities get very little, if any, warning that a plant is shutting down, such with as the closures of asbestos mines in Quebec or the almost overnight closure of the Newfoundland cod fishery in 1992, which threw 40,000 fishers out of work.

“All of those were not planned or anticipated,” he said. “This is not going to happen overnight. We’ve still got some time.”

READ MORE: Coal power in Canada must disappear by the end of 2029, new report says

There are 16 coal-fired generating stations left in Canada, and nine mines for the “thermal coal” that feeds them — five in Alberta and two each in Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia. About 42,000 workers are employed directly or indirectly in coal mining, though some of them are in the metallurgical coal industry, which supplies the coal used to make steel.

Yussuff said the jobs that need to be replaced are high-paying ones often with salaries ranging from $60,000 to $100,000 a year.

Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Comments are closed

Just Posted

Saanich woman says sexual assault was dismissed by police because of her ‘body language’

Patrol officers investigate sexual assault files, make decisions on what goes to Crown counsel

‘Tarantula moth’ spotted in broad daylight in Victoria

Polyphemus moths are one of the largest insects in B.C.

Sooke RCMP seek video after tires slashed on five vehicles

10 tires damaged in overnight incident in Sooke

B.C. Supreme Court dismisses claim against Island Corridor Foundation

Snaw-Naw-As (Nanoose) First Nation was seeking return of reserve land as railway sits unused

Saanich police break up Canada Day gathering of nearly 200 youth in Mount Douglas Park

Officers observed underage drinking, public intoxication, lack of physical distancing

All community COVID-19 outbreaks declared over in B.C.

Abbotsford manufacturer cleared by Dr. Bonnie Henry

B.C. First Nations vow to keep fighting after Trans Mountain pipeline appeal denied

Squamish Nation, Tsleil-Waututh Nation and Coldwater Indian Band made the application

‘Queue jumpers’ not welcome in B.C. as COVID-19 U.S. cases rise: Horgan

Premier Horgan said he’s heard concerns that Americans have stopped at Vancouver hotels instead of heading to their destination

US officer resigns after photos, connected to death of black man in 2019, surface

Elijah McClain died, last summer, after police placed him in a chokehold

Black worker files discrimination complaint against Facebook

Oscar Veneszee, Jr. has worked as an operations program manager at Facebook since 2017

Nestle Canada selling bottled water business to local family-owned company

The Pure Life bottled water business is being sold to Ice River Springs

Major B.C. salmon farm tests new containment system to curb sea lice infestations

System “essentially eliminates” contact between wild and farmed fish stocks, says Cermaq

US unemployment falls to 11%, but new shutdowns are underway

President Donald Trump said the jobs report shows the economy is “roaring back”

Most Read