The federal government must move to implement ambitious and comprehensive legislation to support workers and communities in the shift toward a net-zero carbon economy, according to a new report, Roadmap to a Canadian Just Transition Act: A path to a clean and inclusive economy.
“Dozens of communities and thousands of jobs are at risk as Canada inevitably winds down coal, oil and gas production to meet its climate targets,” says report co-author Hadrian Mertins-Kirkwood, a senior researcher with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA). “At the same time, thousands of new jobs are being created in the clean economy in every part of the country.”
“We can manage the transition in a way that minimizes harm to fossil fuel workers and their communities while maximizing the benefits of low-carbon growth, but we need robust legislation to make that happen,” adds Mertins-Kirkwood.
The federal government promised in 2019 to introduce a Just Transition Act but no legislation has yet been tabled. With Budget 2021 imminent, which the government has said will focus on building a clean economy, it is past time to establish this crucial framework.
The new study, co-published by the CCPA and the Adapting Canadian Work and Workplaces to Respond to Climate Change research program (ACW), proposes a six-part framework for new legislation in this area. It would:
- Recognize fundamental just transition principles, rights and definitions;
- Establish a Just Transition Commission to oversee and guide the government’s transition agenda;
- Establish a Just Transition Benefit to support workers in affected communities;
- Establish an Economic Diversification Crown Corporation to invest in job-creating projects in affected communities;
- Establish a Just Transition Training Fund that ensures access to employment in the lower-carbon economy for historically marginalized groups; and,
- Establish a new federal-provincial/territorial Just Transition Transfer to deliver funding for these new social programs.
The estimated cost of these new programs is roughly $16.5 billion per year initially, declining over the lifetime of the transition to a net-zero carbon economy.
“Our framework offers one route forward for a just and inclusive transition,” says Mertins-Kirkwood. “But any path the government takes on just transition legislation will need to be at least as broad in scope and as ambitious in scale.”
The report’s recommendations draw on precedent and best practices for low-carbon transitions from peer countries around the world, including Denmark, New Zealand and the United Kingdom.
“Where transition strategies have been most successful, they involved proactive government policies, extensive stakeholder engagement and substantial public funding,” says report co-author Clay Duncalfe, a graduate student at Carleton University. “Canada needs to learn from their examples and not shy away from ambitious legislation to enhance the social safety net and invest in economic diversification.”
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Roadmap to a Canadian Just Transition Act: A path to a clean and inclusive economy, by Hadrian Mertins-Kirkwood and Clay Duncalfe, is available for download on the CCPA website.
The report is a co-publication by the CCPA and the Adapting Canadian Work and Workplaces to Respond to Climate Change research program, based at York University and funded by the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada. The CCPA is an independent, non-profit charitable research institute founded in 1980.