Smith 'puzzled' by Trudeau's lack of collaboration on 'sustainable jobs' action plan

Alberta Premier Danielle Smith has repeatedly offered Trudeau a revived partnership to signal to Canadians and investors that both governments cooperate to decrease carbon emissions but not to abandon liquefied natural gas exports in the process.

Smith 'puzzled' by Trudeau's lack of collaboration on 'sustainable jobs' action plan
The Canadian Press / Adrian Wyld
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Alberta Premier Danielle Smith has expressed her frustration with the Trudeau Liberals once again, as their pursuit of a "just transition" remains steadfast, prompting the premier to reject their jobs plan as "puzzling" and "nonsensical."

On Friday, Ottawa released the Sustainable Jobs Action Plan to aid in their transition to a low-carbon economy that claims will not spur massive unemployment in the country's energy towns.

The 32-page plan proclaims it will "create so many jobs there may not be enough workers to fill them" through training and retraining programs, adding that Canadians must 'accept' a sharp drop in demand for oil and gas moving forward.

"I am puzzled by the federal government's just published 'Just Transition Plan' and will be in contact with the federal government in the coming weeks to discuss several issues identified in it," said Smith in a Friday afternoon statement.

"Although I note the Plan recognizes that Canada's oil and gas sector is working towards lowering emissions through investing in emerging clean technologies and will be an important source of the world's energy for decades, our government is perplexed by the blatant exclusion of any federal strategy to aggressively increase LNG exports to obtain emissions credits [under international agreements] for replacing higher emitting fuels around the world with Canadian LNG while simultaneously driving economic growth in Alberta and Canada," she continued.

Smith previously extended the olive branch to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to consult the provinces on that plan by cordially inviting him to meet with her in February.

She offered Trudeau a revived partnership to signal to Canadians and investors that both governments will cooperate to decrease carbon emissions but not abandon liquefied natural gas exports (LNG) in diversifying Canadian energy.

In her letter, Smith urged Ottawa to drop the "just transition" rhetoric immediately and to rename the "Just Transition Act" to the "Sustainable Jobs Act" as a gesture of good faith.

But on Friday, Smith lauded the glaring omission of an LNG strategy as "nonsensical."

"This LNG export strategy, combined with the accelerated proliferation of CCUS, small modular nuclear reactors and other clean technologies, will, by themselves, achieve Canada's emissions reduction targets while maintaining growth in the energy industry for decades. The omission of any LNG strategy in this plan is completely nonsensical," she said.

Alberta's premier also expressed "grave concerns" with Ottawa failing to recognize provinces' constitutional jurisdiction over natural resources.

"Alberta has not been involved in any such approvals nor included in the development of the plan published today," said Smith. 

The "just transition" concept emerged from the 2015 Paris Agreement, a divisive international climate change treaty that advocated for economies to move from high-carbon industries to green economies.

"This dysfunctional communication by the federal government with our province cannot continue if Canada can achieve its 2050 emissions reduction targets," she added.

Smith again reached out to her federal counterparts on Friday to negotiate and collaborate on a strategy that reduces Alberta's emissions while increasing energy investment.

However, she firmly stated her opposition to Trudeau's "continued pattern of unilateral federal action in areas of provincial jurisdiction," which she said, "must stop immediately."

"Alberta remains alarmed at the continued focus in this Plan on the federal 'Emissions Reduction Plan' (ERP)," said Smith. It aims to mandate reductions in emissions by 40% below 2005 levels by 2030. 

She referred to the "arbitrary target" as unviable without significant production cuts that would serve to cripple the Canadian economy and "freeze tens of billions in energy investment overnight."

"The ERP, as previously outlined by the federal government, would be a policy package of economic destruction to the Alberta and Canadian economies, unlike any previous federal policy in our province's history," added Smith.

Per a leaked federal memo, a 'just transition' could affect upwards of 187,000 workers in Alberta from the agriculture, energy, manufacturing, and transportation sectors.

The federal Natural Resources Ministry claimed the memo did not constitute policy and was taken "out of context." 

The Trudeau Liberals' interim plan for 2023/25 sets an initial frame for the Sustainable Jobs Action Plans for every five years, beginning in 2025.

They pledged to develop it over the next two years in close collaboration with provinces and territories, indigenous partners, labour partners, industry, and other key partners to guide efforts over the coming years.

"The plan represents a first step, not an endpoint," said Ottawa in a statement on Friday. The feds claim it is crucial to their strategy for "building a sustainable, prosperous economy for years and decades to come."

In the interim, the Trudeau Liberals hope to establish the Sustainable Jobs Secretariat and create a Sustainable Jobs Partnership Council to oversee and develop economic strategies.

Their mandate is to introduce a sustainable jobs stream under the Union Training and Innovation Program and advance funding for skills development toward sustainable jobs, among other things, to inspire investor confidence moving forward.

Federal Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson said in January that their "just transition" bill, expected early this year, would be secondary to Friday's action plan.

They hope to introduce the bill by the end of March, though it may "slip into the next quarter."

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  • By Ezra Levant

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