OTTAWA, Canada: Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's Liberal government plans to implement its long-awaited workforce transition bill, the "Just Transition," aimed at achieving its goal to cut emissions that cause climate change.
However, the government of Alberta, the country's main crude-producing province, stressed that the legislation will negatively affect the oil and gas industry, which accounts for 5 percent of Canada's GDP.
In a tweet posted last week, Alberta's Conservative Premier Danielle Smith said, "When I hear the words 'Just Transition,' it signals eliminating jobs and for Alberta, that is a non-starter!"
As the oil and gas sector employs some 185,000 workers, the bill has been a controversial issue in Alberta before a provincial election.
The Canadian government, which first promised in 2019, has been trying to ease concerns about the bill.
In an interview with Reuters, Trudeau said that the sooner Alberta's "political class" understood that the future is not to be feared, the better.
Gil McGowan, President of the Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL), said, "This should not be a political issue, this is an issue about what is really happening in the global economy."
The focus should be on helping communities adjust to sweeping industrial changes and economic diversification, McGowan added.
Alberta's last coal-fired power station will convert to natural gas later this year, as part of an accelerated energy transition first announced in 2015.
In 2019, the Parkland Institute research center predicted that up to 3,500 new jobs will be created by the bill, but lead author Ian Hussey said that number was far too low.
"Renewable investment has taken off in Alberta in a way that was never even dreamed of when we did that research," he said.
Some 200,000 clean energy jobs could be created by 2030, according to think tank Clean Energy Canada.
Former coal miner Len Austin, who manages the Just Transition center that supports former coal workers, said policymakers made a "really good effort" with programs, such as retirement bridging, relocation packages and $8,945.21 retraining vouchers.
However, more funding is needed for economic diversification and infrastructure projects within coal communities to create new jobs, he added.