Alberta NDP Leader Rachel Notley says the federal government needs to drastically increase its planned investment in lower-emissions energy projects if it wants a "just transition" of workers away from high-pollution jobs.
Politicians are focusing too much on semantics and not enough on the logistics of creating new, high-paying jobs for workers employed in Alberta's oil and gas sector, Notley said Wednesday at a news conference in Edmonton.
"The object must be to support the growth of jobs within the oil and gas sector that are focused on the work that I think everybody within the oil and gas sector agrees we need to do, which is reduce emissions and ensure that we are well placed to be the market of choice internationally," Notley said.
She said she would like to see federal and provincial governments and industry invest in projects like a new hydrogen plant destined for Edmonton, as well as more liquefied natural gas (LNG) projects.
It's unclear if the federal government would consider those to be "green" jobs.
Notley also wants Ottawa to fast-track approval of lower-emissions LNG plants.
Her comments come as Canadians anticipate new federal legislation promising a "just transition" of workers employed by the oil and gas sector.
Stemming from Canada's commitment to the 2015 international Paris Agreement, the term "just transition" refers to finding good-paying jobs for workers in lower carbon-emitting industries.
Federal Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson has said the bill's focus will be on sustainable job creation and economic growth in every region.
Alberta Premier Danielle Smith has panned the move, alleging it is a plan to kneecap the oil and gas industry and eliminate hundreds of thousands of oil and gas jobs. Smith also takes issue with the term "just transition."
"The prime minister is using loaded language that refers to phasing out Alberta energy and Alberta jobs," Smith's press secretary, Rebecca Polak, said in an email Wednesday.
"The premier recognizes it. Albertans recognize it. And Rachel Notley should join us and explicitly commit to standing up for Alberta jobs."
The move is part of the Liberal government's broader climate plan, which includes requiring the oil and gas sector to be net-zero by 2050. In a bid to prevent irreversible damage to the climate, the government wants to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to a level 42 per cent lower than they were in 2005 by the year 2030.
In its 2021 election platform, the federal Liberals promised a $2 billion "Futures Fund" for Alberta, Saskatchewan and Newfoundland and Labrador to transition employees away from oil and gas.
The federal fall economic statement pledged $250 million over five years, starting later this year, to help workers transition to more sustainable jobs.
Notley said it's not enough.
"Hate to break it to anybody who thinks that is going to have a substantial impact on labour force development growth or trends in Alberta, or anywhere else," she said.
Notley support for CCUS a shift
Notley's support for carbon capture, utilization and storage is a shift from when she was premier of Alberta from 2015 until 2019.
Early in her term, she said her government was only funding CCUS projects because previous provincial governments had signed long-term agreements they could not affordably get out of.
She also reiterated Wednesday she sees the federal government's emissions reduction goals as unachievable. She said she's frustrated by a lack of consultation between the federal and provincial governments to set realistic goals.
"That hurts Alberta workers and that delays the growth of the kind of good industrial jobs that will be part of that process," Notley said.
Polak said the Alberta government has invested $1.8 billion in CCUS projects and approved 25 proposals for storage hubs during the last year.
In a statement to CBC, a spokesperson for Wilkinson said the federal government is investing in sustainable jobs and the federal government will "work collaboratively with partners – including provinces and territories – to support Canadian workers."