The Task Force on Just Transition for Canadian Coal Power Workers and Communities released its final report last week, and it drew the attention of many, including the United Mine Workers of America Local 7606.
Jody Dukart, an international auditor/teller with the union, said he appreciates the efforts of task force chairperson Hassan Yusseff and the other members, who were in Estevan last June to listen to the concerns of people in the community.
“They came down and they showed their initiative, and they put in their time and their energy to help the labour force out to get through this coal phase-out, but I’m still not in favour of the coal phase-out,” said Dukart.
He believes the money that was spent on the task force, and the money that will be spent on the task force’s recommendations, could have been better spent on technology such as carbon capture and storage that would keep coal as a viable power source.
“In the end, you’re going to save jobs,” said Dukart. “We really don’t have a backup plan yet.”
CCS technology is only going to get better in the future, he said. Canada could be a leader in CCS technology, and it will create jobs.
He pointed out that Estevan experienced one if its coldest months of February in 80 years, with several extreme cold warnings issued, and he doesn’t believe that power sources such as solar and wind would be able to keep up with that temperature.
Dukart said he hasn’t talked to a lot of people who are concerned at this point, but that’s because nothing has come offline. The transition away from coal is underway in Alberta, while in Saskatchewan the transition is still being talked about.
That could change if the equivalency agreement isn’t signed, and Units 4 and 5 come offline at the end of this year.
He’s concerned that when coal is phased out, it will force people to relocate, which would have a negative impact on the community and separate families.
The task force made 10 recommendations. It calls to embed just transition principles in planning, legislative, regulatory, and advisory processes to ensure ongoing and concrete actions throughout the coal phase-out transition with a just transition plan for the coal phase-out; include provisions in federal environmental and labour legislation and regulations; and establish a targeted, long-term research fund for studying the impact of the coal phase-out and the transition to a low-carbon economy.
Locally available supports will be through funding the establishment and operation of locally-driven transition centres in affected coal communities. A pension-bridging program will be created for workers who will retire earlier than planned due to the coal phase out.
A detailed and publicly available inventory will be created with labour market information pertaining to coal workers, such as skills profiles, demographics, locations, and current and potential employers; and a comprehensive funding program will be established for workers staying in the labour market to address their needs across the stages of securing a new job, including income support, education and skills building, re-employment, and mobility.
The task force calls on the federal government to invest in community infrastructure by identifying, prioritizing, and funding local infrastructure projects in affected communities.
Finally, they want the government to establish a dedicated, comprehensive, inclusive and flexible just transition funding program for affected communities, and meet directly with affected communities to learn about their local priorities, and to connect them with federal programs that could support their goals.