Chamber calling for provincial government to provide funding for Estevan’s future

The Estevan Chamber of Commerce is calling for the provincial government to take action to aid with transitioning Estevan and area from conventional coal power electricity generation.

And they’re asking the public to help out with sending a message.

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During the May coffee talk gathering hosted by the chamber, there was a strong, united voice from approximately 40 members who attended. They said Estevan needs provincial representation and support regarding the transition from coal-fired power generation.

The consensus at the meeting was that the Estevan Chamber of Commerce should draft letters for concerned Estevan residents to sign and send to various cabinet ministers.

Jackie Wall, the executive director for the chamber, said they were going to discuss the letter-writing campaign at the chamber’s next strategic planning meeting, but the response at the coffee talk session caused them to push forward as quickly as possible.

“Hearing the concerns reiterated at the coffee talk, the board decided that we needed to just initiate this quicker than what we originally anticipated,” said Wall.

The chamber publicly announced the letter writing campaign Tuesday, a few days after Mayor Roy Ludwig and economic development co-ordinator Dwight “Fitz” Bramble met with Estevan MLA Lori Carr, Trade and Export Development Minister Jeremy Harrison, and one of Harrison’s staffers, Kevin Westgard.

The timing was coincidental, Wall said.

“The decision to do this came before that meeting,” Wall said.

Information that she has read previously on transitioning communities from industries has called for all levels of government to be involved. So Wall would like to see the Saskatchewan government provide support.

“They can say, yes, that it was federal legislation that brought this about, but we also realize that Units 4 and 5 were at the end of their life cycle, and were likely to be decommissioned. And I don’t think federal legislation sped up that.”

The chamber pointed out the City of Estevan has co-ordinated a coal transition committee that is working in conjunction with an economic development committee to diversify the economy and develop a plan to transition from coal.

Federally, the final report from the Task Force on Just Transition for Canadian Coal Power Workers and Communities has been released, and there have been various announcements of federal funding to transition communities such as Estevan.

There has also been support and co-operation from SaskPower as they consistently attend local coal transition meetings.

“They have been coming down and meeting with us and working with the community to see how they can play a role in transitioning,” said Wall.

The chamber says the provincial government has repeatedly stated that this transition from coal and the transitioning of communities is solely a federal responsibility.

“The feedback that the Estevan Chamber of Commerce is receiving is that our membership disagrees,” said Wall.

When she attended a Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce meeting earlier this year, Wall asked Premier Scott Moe what their plan was for communities transitioning out of coal, and he said they didn’t have a plan, other than to take a look at the option of retrofitting the Shand Power Station so that it can have a carbon capture and storage unit.

The letters can currently be accessed on the chamber’s Facebook page, or by contacting the chamber’s office.

“We can send them the (Microsoft) Word document, and that way they can edit it if they would like,” said Wall.

The chamber is also investigating the possibility of having the letters available for download on their website.

“We are hoping to have a strong response,” said Wall. “There was a very vocal response at our Coffee Talk meeting, and we did get several emails yesterday (May 14) saying that their letters were on the way.”

People can send letters to Moe; Harrison; Carr, who is also the minister of Highways and Infrastructure; Bronwyn Eyre, the minister of Energy and Resources; Donna Harpauer, the minister of Finance; and Dustin Duncan, the minister of Environment and minister Responsible for SaskPower.

“The provincial government needs to be proactive in this transition,” the letters state. “The effects on the provincial coffers will be significant with the depletion of the mineral and tax revenues coming from Estevan and area residents, and many will look for opportunities elsewhere, The impact to our community will be staggering and we need support and leadership.”

The letters go on to say that Estevan needs a win, and that the province should be an ally in this transition.

© Copyright Estevan Mercury

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