Alberta Premier Danielle Smith is proposing a sustainable jobs alternative to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s “Just Transition” proposal, which she says would face “irrepressible opposition” from Alberta. 

The federal government has yet to table “Just Transition” legislation, but Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson said it would be a priority this spring. 

In an open letter, Smith said the leaders have reached a crossroads in Alberta’s relationship with the Federal Government.

“We can continue with the endless court challenges, legislation to protect jurisdictional rights and inflammatory media coverage over our disagreements,” she wrote.

“Or, as is my strong preference, Alberta and Ottawa can work in partnership on a plan that will signal to all Canadians and investors from around the world that our governments have cooperatively designed a series of incentives and initiatives.”

Those initiatives, the premier wrote, would seek to achieve objectives of substantially decreasing Canada’s and Alberta’s net emissions and accelerating private and public investment in infrastructure that utilizes and develops Carbon Capture Utilization and Storage, Bitumen Beyond Combustion, Geothermal technology, petrochemicals, hydrogen, lithium, helium, zero-emissions vehicles and nuclear technologies.

They would also seek to attract a larger skilled workforce to positions in the conventional energy sector and emerging industries and increase LNG exports and other responsibly developed conventional oil and natural gas resources to Europe, Asia, and the United States, she said. 

“Prime Minister, all of the above objectives need to be clearly articulated and integrated into any Federal legislation or policies your government seeks to implement in the coming months, or that legislation will face irrepressible opposition from Alberta,” Smith wrote.

“I genuinely do not want to see that happen,” she added, inviting the prime minister to meet with her in February to discuss the matter. 

“Just transition” emerged from the 2015 Paris Agreement, an international climate change treaty. The goal is to reduce the harm to workers as economies move from high-carbon activities to a green economy.

Last week, Blacklock’s Reporter uncovered a June 1 briefing note to Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson which said a “green economy” would still require workers without “green skills,” like janitors and truck drivers.

The memo said more than 2.7 million Canadians face “significant” disruptions in sectors that will be affected by climate change programs. 

“The transition to a low carbon economy will have an uneven impact across sectors, occupations and regions and create significant labour market disruptions,” it reads.

“How many jobs will be lost in the oil and gas sector as a result of the Government of Canada’s climate change actions?” 

Department staff said the answer depends because not every job that exists in today’s economy “has a perfect twin in a net zero economy.”

“And it’s not to say the transition will not be accompanied by change and uncertainty for some workers and communities where the labour force requirements of the future will differ from those of today.”

Smith has said “Just Transition” is a social justice term meant to phase out the coal industry

“To use that terminology, they’re virtue signaling to an extreme base that is openly advocating to shut down oil or natural gas,” she said last week. 

In her letter, she also implored Trudeau to drop the name “Just Transition” and refer to the proposal as the “Sustainable Jobs Act.”

“Vow that all provisions of any forthcoming legislation will be designed to incentivize investment and job growth in both the conventional energy sector as well as in emerging industries,” she wrote. 

“Demonstrate that no provision of the Act will be designed to phase out or reduce Alberta’s conventional oil and natural gas sector and workforce.”

The federal government has yet to respond to Smith’s letter.


  • Rachel Emmanuel

    Rachel is a seasoned political reporter who’s covered government institutions from a variety of levels. A Carleton University journalism graduate, she was a multimedia reporter for three local Niagara newspapers. Her work has been published in the Toronto Star. Rachel was the inaugural recipient of the Political Matters internship, placing her at The Globe and Mail’s parliamentary bureau. She spent three years covering the federal government for iPolitics. Rachel is the Alberta correspondent for True North based in Edmonton.