DEBATE: On the 'Just Transition' Policy in Canada

Debate - On the Just Transition Policy Coming Out of Ottawa - Copy

The 'just transition' policy is a topic of hot debate right now in Canada. While anti-oil and gas activists say we must begin 'winding down' our world-class energy sector, many more Canadians are taking on a realistic approach to any 'transformation' of our energy systems to come.

On the minds of Canadians across the country are several important questions, such as will Canada's 'Just Transition' take into account the following:

• Global oil and gas demand continues to grow past record consumptions levels, and is expected to for decades yet

• The significant wealth and prosperity generated for Canadians and our governments by the oil and gas sector – and its critical importance for our national economy

• The ~600,000 workers across the country who rely on the sector to put food on the table for their families, and how they will be affected in relation to job opportunities to provide for their loved ones

• The rural and Indigenous communities that overwhelmingly rely on the oil and gas sector for economic stimuli such as private sector jobs and governmental revenues

• The fact that Canada is one of the most stable, reliable and responsible energy exporters on the planet, and that reducing the amount of international market share held by Canada does nothing to advance global social progress, human rights and environmental protection

Additionally, Canada's auditor general released a report stating that the 'Just Transition' for coal workers back in 2019 was a failure.

"Overall, we found that Natural Resources Canada and Employment and Social Development Canada were not prepared to support a just transition to a low-carbon economy for workers and communities," the report says.

Energy workers across Canada are concerned that history may be an indicator of the future for a 'Just Transition' in the sector.

Many questions remain.

Mike Smyth, host of The Mike Smyth Show on 980 CKNW out of Vancouver, joins Cody Battershill, founder and chief spokesperson of Canada Action, to discuss the 'Just Transition' policy in Canada and shed some insight on the best way forward for Canadians.


Or, keep reading for everything said between Cody and Peter of the Wilderness Committee below. Also see:

DEBATE: Should We Ban Natural Gas Stoves in Canada?
DEBATE: Where Would You Choose to Buy Your Oil & Gas From?
DEBATE: Should Canadian Energy Be a Part of the UN's Climate Change Conference?

Canada's 'Just Transition' Policy

Canada Action vs. Wilderness Committee - Mike Smyth Show - Jan 2023 - Just Transition Debate - Copy

Mike: All right, here we go now with our great debate on the federal government's plan for a just transition.

This is a super hot issue in Ottawa right now. The 'Just Transition' Ottawa's plan to transition to a low carbon economy, wind down oil and gas production, ramp up climate emission targets, transition to things like electric vehicles.

How will this impact the Canadian economy?

The Justin Trudeau government working on this plan. Legislation expected later this year.

No firm details released on this plan yet, but there was a leaked 81-page federal briefing memo that set off some rockets.

Next door in Alberta, where Premier Danielle Smith says the plan could eliminate thousands of jobs. Have a listen to what she had to say about it here.

Danielle Smith: When I hear the words just transition, it signals eliminating jobs. And for Alberta, that is a non-starter.

I think it's a big threat. And the reason for that is the language that they're using. Just transition is the language that they use when they phased out the coal industry.

It is a social justice term to use that terminology. They're virtue signalling to an extreme base that is openly advocating to shut down oil and natural gas.

Mike: Okay, let's discuss now with our panel, both sides of it for you.

Peter McCartney, climate campaigner with the Wilderness Committee, pleased to welcome him back. Peter, thank you for coming on.

Peter: Hey, thanks for having me.

Mike: Also on the line, Cody Battershill, founder of Canada Action. It's a group, pro oil and gas advocacy group. Cody, thank you.

Cody: Thanks, Mike. And thanks, Peter.

Mike: Okay, thank you to both of you guys for coming on. Once again, Peter, let me go to you first. So, a just transition.

Do we need a plan like this in Canada right now for moving to a lower carbon economy?

Peter: We do need a plan for a just transition because we need to recognize that the world is actively trying to use less and less of the fossil fuels that this country has produced. And so there are tens of thousands of people that work in this industry.

And this is about being honest about the realities of what a world that is no longer burning fossil fuels for energy looks like, and supporting the workers and communities that are left in the wake of the fossil fuel industry.

There are obviously lots of people and lots of places that rely on oil and gas, but the good news is that there's lots of work to be done.

This transition away from fossil fuels is one of the biggest feats that humanity has ever endeavored upon.

And so we need people to be building green energy like geothermal, wind and solar. We need people to be working on restoring a lot of the places that the oil and gas industry has impacted so heavily.

And so that is what the just transition is about. Making sure that families are taken care of and communities are able to thrive for the long term once the world has stopped using our oil and gas.

And so I don't know how you could be against it.

Mike: Cody Battershill, what do you think?

Cody: Well, the reality of energy demand is that Canada is advancing geothermal and wind and the oil and gas industry is a leader in environmental protection spending and decarbonization spending and clean technology spending.

But demand for oil and gas is still increasing and Peter and other environmental protesters have been saying for more than a decade we need to get off of Canadian oil and gas.

The transition has been to supporting other countries like OPEC and Russia, letting other countries capitalize, selling their oil and gas for the highest, best possible price.

And Canada has suffered, Canadian families and communities have suffered.

It's not up to Peter or people that don't live in the local communities that are impacted to make these decisions.

The federal government said after looking at the coal, there was a just transition task force focussed on the future of coal workers. And by all accounts, it was a failure.

They said, we found that Natural Resource Canada and Employment and Social Development Canada were not prepared to support a just transition and the Commissioner basically said it was a big failure.

So we have a lot of work yet to do about the energy transformation.

As long as the world needs oil and gas, it should be Canadian full stop. And talking about helping other countries capitalize at our expense is just ridiculous.

Peter: So, for years the International Energy Agency over promised on rising demand forecasts for coal, oil and gas.

And now that agency, which is so fundamentally linked to the fossil fuel industry, is predicting a peak in the demand for oil and gas this decade.

So this is something we have to talk about right away. And I agree, it's actually not up to me.

It is up to the communities where they produce this oil and gas, what their future looks like.

And we have taken billions in revenue from those communities for decades.

And so it's up to the federal and provincial governments to support those communities in charting a new path forward that doesn't rely on fossil fuels.

And that's exactly what the Just Transaction Act is designed to do.

Mike: Hey Cody, when you take a look at the federal government's plans here for reducing emissions, this dramatic transformation of the economy, moving toward 100% electric vehicles and that kind of thing, obviously there is an economic impact on something like that.

Does it not make sense to plan for that? Like when you hear the federal government saying, well, we want to be there to help displaced workers maybe with retraining transition them into cleaner energy sectors, are you buying that, or you just figure that's just not going to happen and people will just lose their jobs, period.

Cody: I mean, with what happened with the coal workers. The government itself admitted that their whole just transition planning was a failure.

And what we need to be looking at going forward is maximizing the value of our resources or for that fact, for that matter, the value of anything that we produce and we can sell from Canada.

That's just smart.

The oil and gas industry this year is expected to generate about $60 billion [this year].

We can build more hospitals and more schools with that money, in addition to the half trillion since the year 2000. Oil and gas demand, the IEA just said it's going to reach an all time high this year.

Peter and others have been saying for more than a decade, shut down Canadian LNG, shut down Canadian oil. We don't need it because demand is going to peak.

Well, demand still is yet to peak and as long as the world needs it, it should be Canadian, while we advance wind and solar and geothermal, of which the industry is a huge supporter of, we're already decarbonizing building out carbon capture, investing in cleantech and geothermal and wind. We're a leader in the world in wind energy - top ten.

So we've got so much to be proud of. But it should be local communities that drive this, that talk about how we are going to plan for the future, not Ottawa or other places that have never worked in those local areas or those local resources, deciding what people are going to do.

Mike: All right, talking about Ottawa's plan for a just transition away from oil and gas, my guests are Peter McCartney, Wilderness Committee, Cody Battershill, Canada Action.

Both sides of it for you. Let's go to your phone calls.

Karen in Surrey. Hi Karen, what do you think?

Karen: Well, first of all, my friend lives in Langley. They live in a large townhouse complex. They went to the township to find out if the whole complex could get air conditioning units. They said the infrastructure cannot handle it.

Right now we have the Netherlands and other countries that are making multi million dollar deals selling their natural resources.

We are losing out as Canadians. I think this individual who's there for climate, he needs to listen to the individual that just did a speech on the fact that Great Britain, for example, is 2% of the problem.

The majority of the people, the majority of the problem lies with countries that are poverty stricken. The poorest countries in the world are adding to the climate problem, and that's not top of mind for them.

So our infrastructure cannot handle electricity the way that is being sold to Canadian people right now. And let's look at the mining, the damage to the environment related to the mining for batteries, it's just insane.

Mike: Thank you for the call. Peter, what do you say to her?

Peter: Yeah, so BC Hydro has enough power to get us going through the end of the decade for sure.

I mean, Site C coming online for better or worse. And we've got more power than we know what to do with. But to put this problem onto other countries

I think is really a problem because Canada is the fourth biggest producer of the fossil fuels that are causing climate change. And so we have to deal with that.

We are massively responsible for this problem. We also have some of the highest per capita emissions in the world because of our massive polluting industry of the oil and gas sector.

This needs to be a conversation in Canada and we have climate commitments for ourselves. We need to make those climate commitments. They matter.

Mike: Cody. Go ahead.

Cody: Wilderness Committee, Peter, Stand.EARTH, Greenpeace. They say no to oil, gas, coal. They also say no to nuclear and hydro. And on a previous debate, Peter acknowledged battery storage for wind and renewables and solar is not there yet.

We can support a transformation of our energy system as a pragmatic decision to maximize the value of our exports, oil and gas, while advancing Canadian mining and building out more wind and solar. That's okay.

We can prepare for that longer-term transformation without the rhetoric, without the inflammatory comments that we've seen that have proven to be false about the end of oil and gas demand and transitioning, as these green groups would like.

Away from responsibly produced Canadian oil and gas today to OPEC and Russia and Saudi Arabia and the other producers for them to benefit at our expense.

It doesn't make any sense.

We can do both responsibly and that starts in local communities acknowledging the reality of energy demand and how the world works.

Mike: Steve calling from the West End. Hi, Steve. Go ahead.

Steve: Hey, Mike. You know what? I think there needs to be a little more focus on the technology which we have right now to take carbon out of fossil fuels. We can refine that out and what that would do is that would allow us to still use the oil and gas without torpedoing our economy.

And at the same time, it gives us a more soft transition where we can get into things that are green, like nuclear energy. It's a situation where that's actually the technology now in nuke energy is so good, that it's actually deemed green.

The other thing about LNG, we should be selling that to the Germans. The Germans will be paying for that LNG factory, not Canadians. And it's a lot cleaner to burn Canadian LNG than it is their [lignite], or whatever they're burning to keep the lights on over there.

Mike: Okay, Steve, thank you for the call. Peter, I'm curious on your response to that because we hear a lot about carbon capture from the oil and gas sector, especially in Alberta.

What's your take on that? Can we do this carbon capture technology?

Peter: It is magical thinking to think that the oil and gas industry is just going to carbon capture away it's massive pollution. This technology is still in its infancy. It can't possibly scale on the speed it needs to, and it's extremely expensive.

And so we are making some of the most expensive oil and gas in the world even more expensive, which means companies or countries aren't going to want to buy it.

And it doesn't get rid of the majority of emissions that come from the burning of oil and gas in your car. So even if we could completely eliminate the carbon emissions that are produced here in Canada, if we're selling this around the world, it is still creating the climate pollution that is driving the disasters that we see all over the world today.

Mike: What do you say to that? Let's get Cody's response.

Cody: Peter is incorrect that Canadian oil and gas is high cost. In fact, it's not.

We see Japan and Germany and all these other countries wanting to trade with us because we're a reliable supplier with responsible production who's focused on reducing our footprint.

Peter is just symbolically or ideologically or whatever opposed to oil and gas.

If you really want to reduce emissions, if carbon capture could do that, wouldn't you be all about hoping that that works and hoping that that's going to be a success?

We are developing technology right now in Canada. We've got some of the world's largest active projects, and I hope that we can continue to export that knowledge and that expertise to export even more Canadian success around the world.

We need all of the above. And I am concerned that Peter and Wilderness Committee, they're just opposed to oil and gas from Canada, even if it means it helps other producers and even if it's not pragmatic or realistic with what's happening in the world of energy demand.

Mike: Squeeze in one more call Chris and Penticton.

Chris, you got like 30 seconds here. Go ahead.

Chris: Okay, I'll be really quick. Firstly, if we're concerned about carbon and they're talking about carbon dioxide really infuriates me, maybe everyone should at least have at least five minutes a day where they don't breathe because we breathe carbon dioxide.

Secondly, I think it's absolutely silly. Use our natural resources, get the revenue so we can go to the green aspect. We're missing the ball.

Mike: Thank you, Chris.

Guys, we just have a minute left here, so I'll give you 30 seconds each year to sum up. And Cody, you go first. Go ahead.

Cody: Well, when we hear just transition from Peter and environmental groups, it's apparent why people get upset.

And that's because they're talking about shutting down Canadian oil and gas, as we listen to on the show.

Even though demand has never been higher and the industry is a massive contributor to our national quality of life, we can work through this transformation, maximize the value of our resources, continue to be a leader in wind and hydro and nuclear.

We can do all of the above in a way that's not polarized, working together as a country. That's what we need to work on.

Mike: Peter, 30 seconds.

Peter: No matter how bad Cody wants it to happen, Canada's resources will not be the last oil and gas standing.

We need to get prepared because we have some of the first resources to go, because nobody is boiling oil out of sand in order to make the small amount of oil that we're going to need.

So we need to get ahead of this. We need to get prepared for it. And that's what the just transition act is all about.

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