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A Conservative MP labelled a federal government bill that aims to create jobs and ensure a transition to a low-carbon economy a “retaliation against the natural resources sector" during a debate last week.
Conservative MP Stephanie Kusie widely criticized the Sustainable Jobs Act, which went through its second reading last week and was debated in the House of Commons Friday. While Liberal MP Julie Dabrusin stressed the bill will support workers as Canada transitions from oil and gas, Conservative politicians like Kusie fired shots at the Liberals and NDP for what they see as leaving the oil and gas industry behind.
In its current form, the bill requires the government to publish sustainable job action plans every five years and create a partnership council to provide ongoing advice to the government and ensure workers have the opportunity to contribute to the plans over time. The bill was tabled in June after the Liberal government promised legislation to support workers during the energy transition in 2019, and aims to deliver on interim promises laid out in the interim sustainable jobs plan released in February.
Kusie criticized the act as a whole, along with pollution pricing, also known as the carbon tax, and clean fuel regulations, which require companies to gradually reduce the carbon content of their fuels. She described the latter as “emission standards which they force industry to meet.” She said all the measures make life more unaffordable to all Canadians and will lead to job losses that will hurt the mental health of industry workers.
After a back-and-forth debate between Kusie and Dabrusin, who said Conservatives are advocating for a climate path of “austerity and inaction,” NDP MP Daniel Blaikie chimed in to say that although the act isn’t perfect, it’s necessary.
Blaikie also called out misinformation from the Conservatives during the debate, noting while Conservatives say they advocate for workers, they are really on the side of the oil and gas industry: which are not the same thing.
Despite a decrease in the number of jobs in oil and gas, fossil fuel companies — the main driver of the climate crisis — have been extracting more oil and gas, all while raking in massive profits, Blaikie said.
He pointed out Alberta’s Suncor specifically, which laid off 1,500 people in June after making a profit of over $9 billion for 2022: a figure Environmental Defence writes is actually higher. Blaikie said those layoffs came purposefully after the May 2023 Alberta provincial election. Premier Danielle Smith has been especially outspoken about the act.
“And part of the way that they're doing that is by having very close political allies that they've worked for a long time to capture,” said Blaikie.
While the Conservatives stressed the act leaves workers behind, it was endorsed by Unifor, the Canadian Labour Congress, the International Union of Operating Engineers and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.
While the Conservatives stressed the act leaves workers behind, it was endorsed by Unifor, the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC), the International Union of Operating Engineers and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. Also on Friday, the CLC released a blueprint, in collaboration with the Pembina Institute, for how Canada can include workers while developing clean jobs.
It includes suggestions on how to strengthen the sustainable jobs act, including “... Equipping the Sustainable Jobs Partnership Council with the tools needed to meaningfully shape Canada’s sustainable jobs strategy, and establishing an effective Secretariat to enhance policy integration, intergovernmental coordination, and worker support.”
Many environmental groups, which have also supported the bill, stress the act needs stronger language around climate change and emissions reduction. Without this, “it's really more of a labour bill or a recognition of labour's rights, but it really doesn't do much on the sustainability angle,” Aliénor Rougeot from Environmental Defence told Canada’s National Observer in June, adding Indigenous rights are also “overall, quite absent.”
Meanwhile, research suggests that if Canada reaches net zero by 2050, 700,000 more energy jobs will become available.