NDP deal to prop up Liberals hinges on more support for fossil fuel workers, says MP

OTTAWA — The federal NDP is pressing the Liberal government to pump significant amounts of money into a “Just Transition” regime for Canada’s fossil fuel workers, in what a prominent New Democrat sees as a vital part of this year’s deal. to prop up the Prime Minister. the administration of Justin Trudeau in exchange for a series of political measures.

Charlie Angus, a long-serving MP from Northern Ontario who is the NDP’s critic for natural resource jobs, said Wednesday that the party is continuing to negotiate with the government over the timing and scope of such a regime. Without specifying a dollar figure, Angus called for a “major financial commitment” similar to the massive package of measures to combat climate change, worth more than $464 billion, that US President Joe Biden signed into law. as law this week.

“This is one of the biggest problems for us,” Angus told Star Wednesday.

“The government has to deliver if we are going to continue working together.”

Angus’s comments are the latest by the NDP to appear to pressure the Liberal government to deliver on political promises contained in the parties’ deal signed in March, in which the NDP pledged to support the government with votes of confidence in return. of policies. behaviour.

Earlier this month, NDP leader Jagmeet Singh told the Star the deal will die if the government doesn’t create a program to provide dental care for children from low-income families with no existing coverage by the end of the year, as is described in the deal.

Singh also said his party needs the government to increase housing benefits for low-income Canadians if the deal is to survive until 2023.

The deal also includes a vague promise to move forward “with Just Transition legislation”, something the Liberals promised since the 2019 federal election but have yet to deliver.

In April, the federal environment commissioner criticized the government for failing to act, concluding in a report that it had so far failed to provide support to Canada’s estimated 170,000 fossil fuel workers as countries around the world pledged. to abandon the energy that fills the atmosphere. with greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change.

For Angus, the issue is the most pressing facing Parliament today. He said unions in Alberta representing fossil fuel workers have invited him to meet next week to discuss their desire for government support in this energy transition. He also said that he is pressing the government to ensure that any new funding for clean energy and infrastructure projects is linked to the creation of good-paying jobs.

“I have enormous respect for (Natural Resources Minister Jonathan) Wilkinson, and I think they are sincere, but we feel that the clock is ticking on what can be done in this Parliament,” Angus said. “And we’re certainly feeling that from workers, who aren’t buying the optimistic talk about ‘Just Transition.’ They want to know, what is this really like for us and our families?

In a written statement to the Star on Wednesday, Wilkinson’s press secretary, Keean Nembhard, did not provide a timetable for the promised legislation, but said the government remains committed to “building a clean economy and ensuring a just transition” that creates jobs. in all the country.

A senior government official, speaking on condition of anonymity, characterized the ongoing talks with the NDP as “surprisingly collaborative and productive.”

The official said the vision of a “Just Transition” regime already extends beyond the promised law and the promise to create a new “clean jobs training center” but will also include a “broader plan” around the government to support workers in the green. Wilkinson energy change mandate letter Trudeau calls for legislation “and comprehensive action” on “Just Transition”.

liberals too promised to spend $2 billion in a “futures fund” for workers in provinces with a significant number of fossil fuel jobs, while Nembhard’s statement noted that the government has already pledged billions to “support a just transition to an economy clean”. He cited $35 billion earmarked for new infrastructure projects, $1.5 billion for clean fuels and $8 billion for large projects that help heavy industry reduce emissions and promote clean technology.

Gil McGowan, president of the Alberta Federation of Labor, said talks with labor groups from oil-producing provinces like his own, as well as industry groups, have also been ongoing since the Liberals returned to power in federal elections last year. past.

Calling the talks “very constructive,” McGowan said the government’s “just transition” regime must go beyond programs to re-skill workers to become a major industrial strategy to support workers and create jobs. during the “paradigm shift” towards a green energy economy.

“Like it or not, change is coming,” said McGowan. “The world has started that process of moving away from fossil fuels, and we can’t sugarcoat it.”


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