Communities of Estevan and Coronach will get to decide how to use $10 million allocated by the provincial government for coal transition. Premier Scott Moe announced the creation of a fund in the throne speech on Oct. 23.
The money will be used to assist Estevan, Coronach and surrounding areas in the transition to new economic development opportunities for workers affected by the federally-mandated phase-out of coal-fired electricity by 2030.
“It’s really exciting that we are going to be able to help out the communities with this funding,” said Estevan MLA Lori Carr, who is also a minister of Government Relations and also holds a number of other cabinet postings.
“I think it’s a step in the right direction. We are happy to see that we were able to get some funding sooner than later to help mitigate the closures of Units 4 and 5 at Boundary Dam, which are coming up in 2021 and ‘24. So this will help us to get economic activity in place to help make up for the losses we will be facing come the closures of Units 4 and 5,” said Mayor of Estevan Roy Ludwig.
The fund is just in its infancy, which means that it will take some time still to work out the details. The committee will be set to flesh out the details and decide on the best ways to use the money.
“We will be setting up a committee made up of members from the communities of Estevan, Coronach and the ministry. This committee will be setting the parameters and guiding the path forward. And I want to be clear that this will be something that will be what is in the best interest of all of these communities and ideas put forward by them,” said Carr.
The process is supposed to start in the near future.
“This is all going to go through my portfolio, through Government Relations and be managed through that portfolio. So I’ve directed my officials to reach out to both Mayor Roy Ludwig and the mayor of Coronach and arrange the meeting so they can work out the details as soon as possible,” said Carr.
This is 100 per cent provincial funding that’s going to the municipality. When all parameters are fleshed out, it will be up to the communities affected by the coal phase-out to decide what steps need to be made to ensure the smooth transition.
The fund will be directed towards such things as economic development initiatives to improve the local business environment, municipal investment attraction initiatives, hosting investment delegations, outgoing investment attraction missions, community development planning and strategy formulation and some other efforts.
Carr also said that the fund that they are setting up now will be focusing strictly on trying to get more economic development within the regions that are being affected.
“Hopefully when the time comes we have other jobs in place for these people to be able to transition to and stay in our community,” said Carr.
“I wish that we didn’t have to do this. I truly wish that we could do business as usual, and we could run our coal plants the way they are into the future, but due to the nature of the federal regulations that have come down … these are decisions that have to be made. This is what we can do right now to ensure the best outcome for when things start happening and job losses start happening as far as power and coal go.”
These dollars will be used to try to ensure that there are jobs for people to work in their communities, so they can stay in Estevan and in Coronach and be able to continue to have the lives that they love here.
At this stage, it’s not clear yet, if the money will come all at once or will be spread out over a period of time.
The funding will be significant support for the re-organization of living of the coal-oriented communities, however, both Carr and Ludwig said that it’s just a part of the money needed to ensure Coronach and Estevan can keep the employment opportunities.
“As we move forward the actual closings in ‘21, ‘24, of course, we would be looking at more help as far as transitions with the employees, the training and things along those lines,” said Ludwig.
He went on to note that there is also the federal transition committee with SPC representatives and other important stakeholders from the community.
“We are meeting every couple of months with that committee as well. So as we get closer to those dates, and probably even before those dates come to fruition, we will be looking at help from the federal government as well to help top up some of the needs that we’ll face moving forward,” said Ludwig.
Ludwig also thanked everybody who worked together to have this fund happening in 2019.
“I would like to thank our MLA Lori Carr for going to that force and for helping to make this happen. I would also like to thank Minister (Jeremy) Harrison and of course Mr. Premier, Scott Moe. And all of the cabinets and all of the MLAs that had to weigh in and make a decision on this. And obviously they made the right decision, in our opinion, and we really appreciate that,” said Ludwig.
Carr also thanked the people who put an effort to keep the coal phase-out affected communities going.
“I would like to thank Mayor Ludwig and his team for their positive and constructive advocacy for this type of fund. These are the kinds of results that can come from working together on a common goal,” said Carr.