Green Party unveils plan to transition oil, gas workers to renewable energy jobs

Green Party unveils plan to transition oil, gas workers to renewable energy jobs

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May has unveiled a multi-pronged plan to help workers in the gas and oil sector transition to a renewable energy economy, working to allay fears that her climate action plan would bleed jobs as she ramps up pre-election campaign efforts.

The Green worker transition plan, which includes skills retraining programs and massive retrofit and cleanup projects designed to create employment, fleshes out details from the Green Party's climate action plan called Mission: Possible, that was released in May.

Making the announcement in Vancouver on Wednesday, May said she understands the anxiety among workers in the fossil fuel industry and wants to take an "all-hands-on-deck" approach to transform Canada's economy.

"It's critical that workers in fossil fuel industries and fossil fuel-dependent communities not fear for their future," she said. "We are not at war with fossil fuel workers. We are not at all willing to leave any part of Canada or any community behind."

Wednesday's announcement comes as the CBC's Poll Tracker puts the Green Party at 10.9 per cent in the polls, edging up to the NDP, which has 14.2 per cent support. The Poll Tracker was last updated July 26, but a Mainstreet Research poll of 2,463 Canadians conducted for iPolitics suggests the Green Party is now tied with the NDP at 11.1 per cent.

Fresh off a 30-community tour of Canadian towns and cities, May, MP for the B.C. riding of Saanich–Gulf Islands, is hoping to build momentum with the federal election just over 10 weeks away.

Asked why she made today's announcement in Vancouver rather than in Alberta, where some communities rely on the oil industry for jobs, May said it was only a "physical reality" she and a slate of candidates were in the B.C. city.

She said she was not avoiding Calgary or Edmonton, noting she had visited both cities during her recent tour, which also took her to Collingwood, Guelph, Barrie in Ontario, as well as Avalon, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Yellowknife.

May said she plans to conduct a national campaign tour that will rely on commercial flights with carbon offsets and electric vehicles on the ground. A party official said the leader will also use buses, trains and biodiesel vehicles to limit the campaign's carbon footprint.

"I'll be on the road a lot and not necessarily home in my own riding as much as I would like," she said.

May said the Green Party is doing "fantastically well" and ahead of some other parties in nominating candidates. There are now 238 candidates nominated, with another 100 to go to reach a full roster.

Platform priorities

Along with climate action, she said the key platform priorities will be democratic reform, pharmacare and real conciliation with Indigenous people.

The Green Party plan to transition fossil fuel workers includes:

  • Investing in retraining and apprenticeship programs to refocus the skills of industrial trade workers for jobs in the renewable energy sector.

  • Start a massive cleanup of "orphaned" oil wells; some of which can be transformed to produce geothermal energy.

  • Create a national program to retrofit all buildings to optimum energy efficiency.

  • Establish a transition framework to factor in the unique resources and circumstances of each province.

  • Form partnerships with Indigenous people to ramp up renewable energy development in First Nations communities and on Indigenous lands.

May said Canada has not done well in transitioning workers in past, pointing to the loss of thousands of jobs in Atlantic Canada due to the cod moratorium and in Quebec with the shutdown of the asbestos industry.

She said a task force report released earlier this year on a just transition for Canadian coal plant workers sets a new standard, recommending locally driven transition centres, a pension bridging program and funding for skills retraining. The Green plan would adopt all 10 recommendations from the task force and apply them to other sectors impacted by moving off fossil fuels.

May said the party's plan for retrofitting buildings would create four million jobs for tradespeople such as carpenters, electricians and plumbers, and said there is an "immense economic opportunity" in moving to green jobs.

"People may think when we talk about climate emergency that we're hoping to have people be afraid. People are already afraid. We want to give them hope and the tools to know that their future is secure."

Mission: Possible plan

The Green Party launched its Mission: Possible platform in May. It aims to tackle climate change by holding global average temperature increase to no more than 1.5 degrees C above what it was before the Industrial Revolution.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh released his environmental plan in May, promising to spend $15 billion to create about 300,000 green jobs and ban single-use plastics by 2022.

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer released his plan in June, pledging to meet Canada's emissions reduction targets by setting strict standards for major greenhouse gas emitters while eliminating the current federal carbon tax program brought in by the Liberal government.