By Heather Douglas
“The transition to a zero-carbon economy will create significant opportunities for Canada, but the process of decarbonization may also cause hardship for certain workers and their communities. To ensure no one is left behind in the zero-carbon transition, governments must pursue an environmental policy agenda that prioritizes the stability of communities in vulnerable regions and the well-being of workers across the country. A transition to a zero-carbon economy that is equitable and productive for workers and their communities is a just transition.” Making Decarbonization Work for Workers, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (published January 2018).
In our esteemed politicians’ minds, the transition to a zero-carbon economy will create more jobs than it destroys in the long-term. Most elected officials understand that oil and natural gas are economically important to Canada, and thus many are hesitant to phase them out.
To quote our friends at Environment and Climate Change Canada, “The oil and gas sectors are major emitters of greenhouse gases (GHG) in Canada, and must be wound down in the next few decades … There is simply no feasible path for Canada to meet its long-term emission reduction targets while continuing to extract and burn these fossil fuels in any significant quantities.”
Canada has committed to reduce carbon pollution by 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030 and by 80 per cent by 2050 – essentially a pathway to decarbonization by mid-century. The anti-fossil-fuel crowd’s whining is getting louder. “Every single fossil fuel project approved makes it harder for Canada to meet its 2030 and 2050 goals,” they complain. “This means additional emissions cuts at a similar scale would be needed in other sectors and provinces to meet Canada’s commitments.”
There you have it. The oilpatch is at fault for Canada’s failure to meet its global GHG emissions and this industry must be decimated to achieve our reduction commitment. “The dirtiest, most expensive, most difficult fossil fuels to extract and transport – such as tar sands oil – will be the first to become uneconomical in a carbon-constrained future,” says Patrick DeRochie, climate and energy program manager at radical Environmental Defence.
Job Loss + Economic Impacts
Since the 2014 oil price drop and subsequent waves of oilpatch layoffs, the Canadian fossil fuel industry – oil, natural gas, and coal – employs only about one per cent of the national workforce. These 200,000 jobs are concentrated in northern British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Newfoundland and Labrador. These workers generate $131.0 billion in economic activity.
According to Statistics Canada, Alberta leads the provinces with 138,000 oilpatch jobs and $91.0 billion in fossil-fuel related GDP. Nearly one-third of its GDP is directly tied to the industry, as well as one in 17 jobs. Calgary is home to 60,700 jobs while Edmonton contributes 30,600. Saskatchewan has the second largest share (roughly one in 35) and accounts for just under one-fifth of its GDP. Newfoundland and Labrador have the third largest share (roughly one job in 50) and the province depends on oil and gas production for nearly one-quarter of its economic output. British Columbia has a larger industry than Newfoundland in absolute terms, but the latter is far more dependent on the industry as a share of its provincial economy.
Last July 2017, Columbia Institute published a report entitled, Jobs for Tomorrow: Canada’s Building Trades and Net Zero Emissions, which estimates the transition to a low-carbon economy will create 3.9 million direct jobs in Canada by 2050. “Most of these green jobs are connected to investments in energy efficiency improvements, followed by investments in solar and wind power projects,” the report states. “When indirect and induced jobs are included, Canada could create 19.8 million new jobs by 2050,” it adds.
It gets better. Your tax dollars at work.
Working on a more ambitious timeline, the steering committee of the Green Economy Network, published their forecast, Making the Shift to a Green Economy: A Common Platform of the Green Economy Network (published in 2016). It estimates that “one million green jobs could be created in just five years with aggressive public investments.”
When one examines the fine-print, one discovers the Network assumes $80.0 billion in new spending on energy efficiency, renewable energy, and public transit. “Maintaining that pace of investment over 10 years ($186.0 billion cumulatively) could create an additional 1.5 million jobs.”
It gets even better.
“Fossil fuel workers are relatively privileged compared to other segments of Canadian society,” reports the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. “Workers in the industry are overwhelmingly male (77%) and they tend to be very well paid,” it notes. “In 2016, average total compensation in the fossil fuel industry was $141,000 ($68/hour) compared to the Canadian average of $59,900 ($35/hour). Fossil fuel workers are also disproportionately Canadian-born. Only 12 per cent are immigrants compared to 23 per cent in all industries.”
In our country’s rush to improve gender disparities, the federal government pontificates. “In Fort McMurray more than 40 per cent of workers in accommodation and food services are immigrants and 62 per cent are women, whereas just 18 per cent of oil and gas workers are immigrants and 20 per cent are women. Accommodation and food service workers make an average of $30,300 per year, which is less than a quarter of what oil and gas workers receive on average.”
The feds acknowledge that phasing out the fossil industry in Canada will have consequences. “Whether this transition is inclusive and productive for workers will depend on the social security and workforce development policies put in-place by governments. Decarbonization guarantees neither prosperity nor hardship.”
No Really. The Anti-Fossil-Fuel Crowd Believe these Supports Would Help Oilpatch Workers Transition
In their great attempt to dismantle petroleum production in Canada, the oilpatch’s opponents have actually begun to lobby the federal government to draft and implement direct financial support to the individuals and communities most affected by decarbonization policies, as well as programs to help affected workers find new jobs.
These are the reactive – defensive – policies the naysayers believe you should be able to access:
1. Income support – subsidize the incomes of displaced workers as they transition to new industries (include a top-up to employment insurance benefits + new programs to backstop funds for public services and facilities).
2. Retraining and career support – fund retraining, educational, and career counselling programs to help expedite the transition.
3. Job transfers – facilitate efforts by the private sectors to preferentially hire displaced workers within same company and same community.
4. Pension bridging – bridging an older worker is more economical than retraining that person and these bridging policies need to be developed in partnership with employers, unions, and government stakeholders.
5. Workforce transition plans – mandate employers to develop clear timelines and plans for the wind-down of their fossil fuel projects and facilities and include a strategy to desal with employee attrition.
#Decarbonization #Canada #IncomeSupport #JobTransfers #PensionBridging #WorkforceTransitionPlans #Retraining #TheRoughneck #Roughneck #Oilpatch #FossilFuels #ClimateChange