Minister of Natural Resources defends transition plan to green economy
How does it happen6:50Minister of Natural Resources defends transition plan to green economy
Canada’s biggest challenge going forward will not be the loss of jobs in the oil zone, says Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson. You will be filling all the new jobs in the green economy.
Wilkinson has announced that the new legislation will arrive this year to help workers in carbon-intensive industries access jobs like building retrofits, carbon capture and the extraction and processing of critical minerals used in computers and green technology.
Details of the plan have not yet been revealed. But Alberta, the heart of Canada’s oil and gas industry, is already going backwards. Both Prime Minister Danielle Smith and Provincial Environment Minister Sonya Savage have accused the federal government of endangering the livelihood of Albertans.
This is part of Wilkinson’s conversation with How does it happen host Nil Koksal.
Minister Wilkinson, what is your message to energy workers who are anxious as they wait to see what is in your “just transition” legislation?
I’m not a big fan of the words “just transition.” In fact, I prefer to talk about this as sustainable jobs.
Ultimately, we are focused on ensuring that we are building an economy that will create good jobs, good paying jobs, and economic opportunity in every province.
Alberta Premier Danielle Smith tweeted this week that your government’s “ill-conceived and myopic plan is extremely damaging to the hundreds of thousands of Canadians who are supported by the energy sector and will be detrimental to Canada’s economic recovery.” What would you say to Prime Minister Smith?
I think it’s important that she understands what the bill is and what the action plan is and what it isn’t. And I want to give Premier Smith her due credit in that she’s relatively new, so she hasn’t been a part of some of the conversations about this that have been going on for some time.
But this is not about doing something to Alberta. It’s about really working with Alberta. We want to partner with Alberta in the context of talking about opportunities in the future.
Those are the opportunities for the conventional energy sector. But there are also opportunities for other sectors of the economy that will actually be big opportunities, such as critical minerals and critical mineral processing.
We are certainly interested in Canada continuing to play a role as a provider of conventional energy products, but they need to be in the context of reducing emissions. And we want to work with Alberta on: How do we reduce emissions so that the products we sell as we move through this transition are the lowest carbon products anywhere on the planet?
That’s good for Alberta. That’s good for Canada. That is good for the world.
Alberta, however, is apparently not on the table…so what are Alberta’s energy workers supposed to get out of it? Why is Alberta not part of these negotiations?
In fact, we went through quite an extensive series of consultations when we started to move towards developing this legislation and this action plan. It largely included companies from the energy sector. It included a lot of unions in Alberta. And it included the Alberta government, where there have been discussions between officials over the past two years.
I think there is a huge scope for collaborative work here.
Alberta Environment Minister Sonya Savage… [tweeted]: “This bill will phase out hundreds of thousands of direct and indirect jobs in the energy sector. This should be a cause for concern not just here in Alberta, but across the country.” What is the disconnect here? Because how they are seeing what your plan is and what you are saying are very far apart.
I think there are ways that we can move forward collaboratively. I think we have to be thoughtful about how we’re using the terminology. I think… the words around “just transition” are a bit of a loaded term for people from Alberta and Saskatchewan. I grew up in Saskatchewan. I’m certainly sensitive to that.
It is one of the reasons why I prefer to talk about all this as sustainable jobs. It’s about securing prosperity and securing place-based prosperity because the opportunities that are available in Nova Scotia are different from those that are available in Alberta. And we must work in partnership with government, workers, industry and others to ensure that we are actually taking the necessary steps.
You told our colleagues at CBC News that if you have a concern, you are concerned that “there are so many opportunities” that will arise with this plan that “we won’t have enough workers to fill the jobs.” I wonder if you’re worried that you’re overpromising [or] oversold here?
I actually don’t. I am very optimistic. And I think if you take a step back and think about some of these opportunities, for example critical minerals, you can’t have an energy transition without significantly increasing the amount of critical minerals being produced and processed in Canada and other jurisdictions. worldwide. That’s going to create an enormous number of jobs.
Even the work we’re doing with regards to improving energy efficiency… about 70 percent of the buildings standing today are going through a major refurbishment if we’re really going to get to net zero by 2050. That’s going to create huge jobs.
If you take a step back and think about all the different opportunities for Canada, they’re great. If you are someone who has to choose where you are going to live based on economic prospects in most places, I would choose Canada.
What kinds of jobs will come with this plan?
It is different in different parts of the country. But if you think about Alberta, there are certainly huge jobs in carbon capture and sequestration, if we focus on reducing emissions from the energy sector.
There is work in critical minerals and mineral processing, which has so far been largely in China, that obviously cannot continue given the strategic nature of that.
There will be huge construction jobs building the power grid, including small modular reactors in Alberta.
There are jobs in the biofuels sector. There is a huge opportunity in hydrogen, both for domestic use and for export.
If you go to the East Coast, I mean, one of the big areas that both Nova Scotia and Newfoundland are extremely interested in is offshore wind for the purpose of producing hydrogen to provide for Europe.
Honestly, I am of the opinion that, particularly given some of the demographic challenges facing Canada in the future, our problem is not going to be that we have people for whom there are no jobs.
It will be that there will be so many different opportunities that we will not necessarily be able to take advantage of them all as a country due to labor limitations. And we’re going to have to be very, very thoughtful about it.