The “Just Transition” legislation that Justin Trudeau and Jagmeet Singh want to introduce represents terrible news for hydrocarbon energy producers and workers in Alberta and Saskatchewan.
The “People-Centred Just Transition” federal proposal sends up red flags from the title onward. It bears the hallmark pretense of caring about people. But putting the word people at the front is precisely what governments who don’t put people at the forefront do. The People’s Republic comes to mind. Ottawa prioritizes government systems over people. Just ask federal civil servants about the Phoenix Pay System.
The “Just Transition” part of the name is a door to their intentions. The transition is a path to an eco-Marxist Nirvana. It embodies a desire, typical of radical environmentalists, to rush toward an imagined future. As the federal proposal makes clear, their aim is “to transform the economy” and “pivot” toward a “cleaner future” that is “just and equitable.” The past is dirty; the present is unjust; only the future matters, and it is worth sacrificing today to get there.
The “Just Transition” is a bubble of Green utopian visions. The expression comes from the Just Transition Alliance (JTA), founded in 1997. It is a coalition of “environmental justice organizations and labour unions,” a radical environmentalist arm of European labour. The NDP-Liberals love it. They’re naming legislation after this foreign workers’ environmentalist syndicate.
But what is JTA? This new expression is hazily defined on purpose. It is many things: “a principle, a process and a practice.” Such expressions are empty phrases that can be filled at will, according to opportunity and circumstance. In a country where federal politicians regularly speak from both sides of their mouth, depending on what part of the country they are in, such phrases are naturally favoured.
Beyond simply outlining their vision for an imagined “clean economy future,” their obsession with transitioning is what should concern Western Canadians who have their feet on the ground. On the road to their eco-Nirvana, they are almost singularly concerned with transferring massive amounts of power and wealth to the unions. We’ve heard Charlie Angus, for example, likely the next leader of the federal NDP, covet “substantial financial commitments” for union workers in the legislation.
Canadian “transitionists,” I will call them, are ideological partners to the Europeans. They have created a website called the Ministry of Just Transition. There is no such ministry. It’s just an anti oil and gas platform to vilify the industry that they claim is singularly responsible for the “climate catastrophes” that they see everywhere. In their beliefs, hydrocarbons created “the climate crisis,” and therefore the industry should pay for “solving” it.
The solution to the supposed crisis requires them to appropriate even more wealth from the culpable industry. The feds love this part as a way of grabbing more out of Alberta and Saskatchewan than they already do. It is necessary to pillage the companies because if left to their devices, their claim goes, industry would never help the environment. Prime Minister Trudeau recently repeated these same lies against Alberta’s excellent environmental record, earning him a stern rebuke from Premier Danielle Smith.
With similar Marxoid zeal, the Council of Canadians fantasizes that elected leaders in Canada will, through “Just Transition,” have “the courage to face the greed of the big oil executives.” And so, the message is ecological, but the distributive Marxism offers something sweetly political for Jagmeet and Justin. It transfers power to NDP supporters and amplifies Singh’s messaging that corporate greed is the root of inflation, instead of the Liberal monetary policy he enabled. To Trudeau, it offers a deadly blow to Alberta and yet another opportunity to pit his hated region of the country against the rest.
The “Just Transition” certainly is what Alberta Environment Minister Sonya Savage suspects. The NDP-Liberal coalition means to phase out Alberta’s hydrocarbon industries, re-structure social and economic arrangements, and redistribute western wealth. When Jonathan Wilkinson says that he wants to “help workers in the oil and gas sector move to green jobs,” he may be sincere. But he is clearly signalling that their jobs will disappear in the transitional phasing out of hydrocarbon energy production.
Alberta and Saskatchewan must resist the “Just Transition” plan, even if renamed. Prairie Canadians are in Trudeau’s punitive crosshairs. The plan to impose their redistributive powers has little to do with justice for workers (Remember how Trudeau and Singh dealt with workers’ concerns during the Freedom Convoy?). Under the guise of saving the planet, these enlightened Laurentian socialists will be imposing federal power on provincial jurisdictions, and dominate again the irritating hinterland by ravaging its main sources of wealth and its workers.
Marco Navarro-Génie is the President of the Haultain Research Institute and a Senior Fellow with the Frontier Centre for Public Policy. He is co-author, with Barry Cooper, of Canada’s COVID: The Story of a Pandemic Moral Panic, forthcoming.