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While the sustainable jobs act moves through the House of commons, Canada’s largest labour organization and an Alberta-based think tank have set their sights on what comes next.

The act will require regular jobs plans and the creation of advisory bodies so workers will have a permanent seat at the table, but this must be paired with expanded training programs and incentives, income supports and adding labour requirements to all public funding aimed at the clean economy, according to a new blueprint by the Pembina Institute and the Canadian Labour Congress.

The sustainable jobs act is finally out of the committee stage, where Conservative MPs blocked discussion for more than a month, but it still needs to be amended in the House of Commons and go through the Senate. The 112-page document released today will serve as a guide for the federal government and advisory bodies to take action to support workers in the transition as soon as the bill becomes law.

“This report rightly puts skills development and training at the heart of a blueprint needed to achieve Canada’s climate targets and carve out new sources of competitive advantage in a net-zero world,” said Pedro Barata, executive director of the Future Skills Centre, in a statement.

Labour leaders, including Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) president Bea Bruske, have emphasized the need to hit the ground running. There are clear opportunities to create jobs by building electrification infrastructure and energy-efficient buildings, growing the critical minerals sector and decarbonizing other sectors like steel or cement, the report points out.

‘We absolutely cannot afford to let these opportunities pass Canada by,” said Bruske.

Previous research by the Pembina Institute shows strategic investments in building retrofits could create up to 200,000 lasting, well-paid jobs over the next 20 years and generate more than $48 billion in economic development each year.

Research on the blueprint included one-on-one conversations and focus groups with 45 workers and a survey of another 560 workers with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, the International Union of Operating Engineers, United Food and Commercial Workers, Unifor and United Steelworkers.

This revealed social safety nets were important to workers surveyed and recommended the government provide income security and programs to help workers find new jobs or retire early.

The Canadian Labour Congress and Pembina Institute rolled out a blueprint to guide federal action on creating sustainable jobs, recommending steps and actions to take after #BillC50 eventually becomes law.

Pension security was the single highest-rated priority for workers in the survey, the research found. Protecting the pensions of workers in transition industries at risk of becoming insolvent was a key recommendation, along with improvements to Employment Insurance and financial support for workers near retirement age in high-emitting industries where re-employment options do not readily exist.

Alberta’s Coal Workforce Transition Program does this by providing workers aged 53 and older who have worked in the coal sector for more than a decade with up to 75 per cent of their pension for up to 72 weeks.

Ensuring jobs are not lost in the transition and that new jobs are still well-paying are key concerns for labour, which is why the blueprint recommends attaching labour requirements for things like apprenticeship opportunities and competitive wages to any public funding. The federal government has done this for a handful of proposed investment tax credits.

Jobs in Canada’s clean energy sector are set to grow seven per cent a year between now and 2025, exceeding job declines caused by reduced reliance on fossil fuels, according to modelling by Clean Energy Canada and Navius Research. The findings of scientists and respected bodies like the International Energy Agency are clear: continued investment in fossil fuel supply is not compatible with global climate goals and a livable planet. The clean energy opportunities are undeniable, particularly in Alberta.

Alberta is poised to be a renewable energy powerhouse with its ample wind and sun resources, though project applications remain stalled due to UCP Premier Danielle’ Smith’s seven-month renewables moratorium. Every province and territory is different, and the blueprint outlines strategies to ensure jobs are created in all regions and deal with regional differences.

Another recommendation is to tax emissions-intensive industries that aren’t reducing their emissions, pointing specifically to oilsands companies’ record profits in 2022 and 2023. Suncor recently finished laying off 1,500 workers, a move that will save the company $450 million a year, according to Suncor CEO Rich Kruger. This levy should go into an investment fund to generate additional resources for worker transition, retraining and economic diversification programs, the two organizations proposed.

The federal NDP and Green Party have long been pushing for a windfall tax on oil and gas companies, which could bring in an additional $4.2 billion over the next five years, according to a recent analysis from the Parliamentary Budget Officer (PBO). The Liberals have shown no interest in this policy option.

CLC and Pembina point to the $250 million promised in fall 2022 to establish a Sustainable Jobs Training Centre and urged the federal government to get the centre up and running. The training centre would serve as a hub for workers, unions, other training centres and employers to figure out what skills will be needed years down the line and help 15,000 workers upgrade their skill sets.

Natasha Bulowski / Local Journalism Initiative / Canada’s National Observer