Canadian Labour Congress President Hassan Yussuff poses for a photo, Thursday, February 14, 2019 in Ottawa. A task force to help Canada’s coal workers adjust to life after coal power says is warning that support for action against climate change will be at risk if Ottawa doesn’t embed policies to help coal towns transition. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Support for climate change action could wane if no help for coal workers: report

There are 16 coal-fired generating stations left in Canada, and nine mines for the ‘thermal coal’ that feeds them

The federal government has to prepare communities that are economically dependent on coal for a future when their products aren’t needed if it wants to maintain public support for climate-change action, says a task force on making that transition work.

The Task Force on Just Transition for Canadian Coal Power Workers and Communities is filing its final report today, with 10 broad recommendations.

Underlying many of them is a warning that not easing the anxieties of workers who will be affected by a planned phaseout of coal-fired generating plants will come with a political, and possibly even environmental, cost.

“Widespread support for continued climate-change action is at risk of eroding if strong just-transition provisions are not embedded in climate-change and labour policy,” the report reads.

The task force wants the policies written into legislation to make them difficult to undo and to provide longer-term certainty for the affected workers and communities.

Canada has ordered that all existing coal plants be closed or converted to natural gas before 2030. It is part of Canada’s plan to reduce emissions to 70 per cent of what they weir in 2005, by 2030. In 2016, the most recent year emissions statistics are available, coal accounted for nine per cent of all Canada’s emissions and 71 per cent of emissions from generating electricity.

The task force, set up by the federal government in 2018, has spent the last 10 months hearing from people in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, the four provinces that still use coal as a source of electricity.

Hassan Yussuff, president of the Canadian Labour Congress and one of the co-chairs of the task force, said the body’s very existence is proof the government understands it “can’t simply phase out the industry without thinking of the workers and the communities.”

The task force wants funding to research the impact of the coal phase-out, local transition centres to help provide retraining, relocation and social supports, a pension-bridging program to help workers nearing the ends of their careers make it to retirement without hurting their pensions, and eventually a job bank to help match the skills of coal workers with potential new job opportunities.

Yussuff said this is a unique opportunity because the coal industry is being phased out over time. Most often communities get very little, if any, warning that a plant is shutting down, such with as the closures of asbestos mines in Quebec or the almost overnight closure of the Newfoundland cod fishery in 1992, which threw 40,000 fishers out of work.

“All of those were not planned or anticipated,” he said. “This is not going to happen overnight. We’ve still got some time.”

READ MORE: Coal power in Canada must disappear by the end of 2029, new report says

There are 16 coal-fired generating stations left in Canada, and nine mines for the “thermal coal” that feeds them — five in Alberta and two each in Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia. About 42,000 workers are employed directly or indirectly in coal mining, though some of them are in the metallurgical coal industry, which supplies the coal used to make steel.

Yussuff said the jobs that need to be replaced are high-paying ones often with salaries ranging from $60,000 to $100,000 a year.

Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Governor General’s Award-winning author launches her new book

Wendy Phillips’s ‘Baggage’ is told in experimental ‘free verse’ style

Nanaimo city councillors to hold e-town hall meeting on strategic priorities

Meeting will take place May 23 at the Vancouver Island Conference Centre

Nanaimo Heritage Festival helps highlight the long weekend

Parade and family activities took place downtown today, May 19

Crews putting out one of the first wildfires of the season in Nanaimo

Nanaimo Fire Rescue, B.C. Wildfire Service called to Doumont Road fire

Editorial: Homelessness task force has to be more than misdirection

Task force won’t be able to address all the challenging issues that come before Nanaimo council

‘Teams that win are tight’: B.C. Lions search for chemistry at training camp

The Lions added more than 50 new faces over the off-season, from coaching staff to key players

Nanaimo ferry stops to let bear swim past

Queen of Oak Bay brakes for wildlife

Two cats die in house fire in Nanaimo

Fire happened just after 2 p.m. Sunday on Fifth Street, one resident displaced

Wellington Secondary drama program stages adaptation of ‘Alice in Wonderland’

Production will feature two actresses in the role of Alice

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Say no to plastic straws

Straws make drinking frappuccinos easier, but they kill sea creatures, says letter writer

RDN looking into providing bus service 365 days a year

RDN transit committee to consider adding bus service on Christmas, New Year’s and Good Friday

Growing wildfire prompts evacuation of High Level, Alta.

Chuckegg Creek fire has been burning for several day, but grew substantially Sunday

Take-home drug testing kits latest pilot to help curb B.C.’s overdose crisis

Researchers look to see if fentanyl testing could be a useful tool for those who use drugs alone

Nanaimo author details hotel history along the E&N railway

Along the E&N tells the story of 32 establishments from Esquimalt to Campbell River

Most Read