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.

Just Posted

Mainly sunny Victoria Day in Okanagan-Shuswap

The South Okanagan is the hottest spot to be in the province for Victoria Day

Woodworth purchased Summerland rink, created butcher operation

Giant’s Head Rink had been one of three facilities in Summerland

22nd annual Peachland World of Wheels show kicks off May long weekend

Sunday will 500 classic cars and over 10,000 attendees

Okanagan-Shuswap Weather: Most long-weekend rain has already fallen

A mix of sun and cloud is expected for the last two days of the the Victoria Day weekend.

Update: Mother dead, youth in critical condition after carbon monoxide poisoning at Sandy Point Campground

The woman was found unresponsive insider her tent and the youth was taken via air ambulance to hospital

VIDEO: It’s warming up across the Okanagan Valley

Grey skies are expected to fade and the sun looks like it’s here to stay

Marriage proposal on the big screen at Enderby drive-in

Kelowna man gets engaged in front of hundreds to Vernon sweetheart

Firefighters respond to bus fire on Highway 1

Smoke in coach bus reported to have been caused by overheating, driver and passengers safe

Take-home drug testing kits latest pilot to help curb B.C.’s overdose crisis

Researchers look to see if fentanyl testing could be a useful tool for those who use drugs alone

North Okanagan tattoo fundraiser draws record support

Lineup around the block for start and beginning of Five Fathoms Tattoo event for Children’s Hospital

Police watchdog investigating motorcycle crash in Kamloops

A Kamloops Mountie had stopped the driver for speeding, but they raced off from the 0fficer

North Okanagan crash claims a father

Family thanks emergency crews for assistance in traumatic incident

Facebook takes down anti-vaxxer page that used image of late Canadian girl

Facebook said that the social media company has disabled the anti-vaccination page

Most Read