Last week, Minister of Natural Resources Jonathan Wilkinson introduced Bill C-50, the Canadian Sustainable Jobs Act, which will put in place guidelines, accountability, and transparency mechanisms to oversee the government’s creation of sustainable jobs and support for workers transitioning to the net-zero economy.
The bill is one of the 10 key action areas outlined in the Sustainable Jobs Plan unveiled in February to guide the government’s “Just Transition” efforts over the next two years.
The government announced the “Just Transition” engagement in 2021 to ensure that the country’s low-carbon transition is fair and equitable for workers.
“Workers will lead our energy transition,” said Minister of Labour Seamus O’Regan Jr. “It’s workers who know how to build up renewables and lower emissions. We need them. We need more of them.”
The Sustainable Jobs Plan and the new legislation have been informed by more than two years of consultations with provinces, territories, Indigenous peoples, workers, unions and other stakeholders.
The plan, nonetheless, drew criticisms from the opposition, notably some Albertan government officials including Premier Danielle Smith, saying that the “just transition” plan will eliminate jobs in Alberta’s oil and gas sector, one of the biggest in the country.
The government has not set any job creation targets, but points to numerous studies to indicate that the plan will, in fact, generate thousands of jobs.
Sustainable jobs, the plan reads, involve utilizing skills that Canadian workers already possess. “Rather than a shortage of jobs, in Canada we are much more likely to see an abundance of sustainable jobs with a shortage of workers required to fill them,” it says.
Critics also warned against the introduction of the legislation, but the federal government says that the bill will put workers and communities at the centre of policy and decision-making.
The bill will have three core elements:
- Guiding principles – to encourage social dialogue and engagement, hence, consensus on pathways to a net-zero economy; support creation of decent jobs, recognizing local and regional needs as well cultural values; be inclusive and remove barriers to employment especially for marginalised groups
- Governance structures – collect input from ongoing dialogue to design, implement and track programs and policies; ensure the federal government is working with key partners such as provinces, territories, Indigenous groups, unions, etc.
- Reporting requirement – Publish a federal Sustainable Jobs Action Plan every five years beginning in 2025 and report on progress of previously published plans to ensure the government’s approach remains relevant to the evolving low-carbon economy
The legislation has been backed by the International Union of Operating Engineers, Unifor, Canadian Labour Congress, Canada’s Building Trades Unions and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.
Environmental organization 350.org, however, said that the plan does not go far enough and leaves too much room for the fossil fuel industry to block progress.
“Taking the climate emergency seriously means no more public money for false solutions like carbon capture, utilization, and storage that will only lock workers into the dying fossil fuel era, ” Amara Possian, the organization’s Canada team lead said in a statement to the Canadian Press.
The bill is currently in its second reading in the House of Commons.