Alberta premier outlines her wishes for ‘just transition’ legislation in open letter to Trudeau

Alberta Premier Danielle Smith speaks at a press conference after the throne speech in Edmonton, on Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2022. Smith penned an open letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau Thursday outlining her requests for upcoming 'Just Transition' legislation. Jason Franson, The Canadian Press

In an open letter penned Thursday to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Alberta Premier Danielle Smith said she wants to work collaboratively on legislation that would create and retain sustainable jobs.

Smith has been vocally opposed to the federal government’s proposed “Just Transition” legislation, saying previously she would fight the “Just Transition idea with every tool at Alberta’s disposal.”

Now, Smith is officially inviting Trudeau to meet so they can come up with a plan together.

“We can continue with the endless court challenges, legislation to protect jurisdictional rights and inflammatory media coverage over our disagreements, or, as is my strong preference, Alberta and Ottawa can work in partnership,” said Smith.

Read more: Ottawa doles out $9.7 million to support Alberta jobs, hydrogen industry

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According to Ottawa, the ‘Just Transition’ plan includes “helping industries adopt clean technology and transition to net zero emissions,” including carbon capture and storage; and reducing oil and gas pollution by capping industry emissions.

Smith said she wants to meet with Trudeau in February and have ministers and officials from both levels of government meet repeatedly in the coming months to come up with a joint agreement on the legislation so that it can be introduced and passed by the end of spring.

Read more: Alberta’s spin on ‘misread’ information leads to inaction over ‘just transition’ plan: Analyst

Smith outlined a number of requests for the legislation.

Smith’s first request is to drop the verbiage of “Just Transition” and instead rename the act to the “Sustainable Jobs Act” — a phrase that federal natural resources minister Johnathan Wilkinson already uses.

She wants the legislation to incentivize investment in the conventional energy sector as well as in “clean” fossil fuel technologies like carbon capture utilization and storage, bitumen beyond combustion, petrochemicals, hydrogen, as well as lithium, helium, geothermal and technology around zero-emissions vehicles and nuclear.

Click to play video: '‘Just Transition’ has wrong name, right idea on jobs: Cenovus head'
‘Just Transition’ has wrong name, right idea on jobs: Cenovus head

More requests from Smith are that the act is not designed to phase out the existing oil and gas sector and workforce and that the federal government expands exports to Asia and Europe.

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Lastly, she wants the government to promise that Alberta and Canada can work together to set “reasonable and meaningful emissions reductions targets” and that Canada won’t impose targets on the province’s energy, agriculture and other industrial sectors moving forward.

Read more: Oilsands execs say a ‘just transition’ isn’t a worry — it’s their next big ‘boom’

Smith said that she wants the legislation to achieve the following objectives: to decrease Canada’s and Alberta’s net emissions, to drive investment in “clean” fossil fuel technology, to attract and retain workers for the existing energy sector and increase the export of liquified natural gas (LNG) to other countries.

“Prime Minister, all of the above objectives need to be clearly articulated and integrated into any federal legislation or policies your government seeks to implement in the coming months, or that legislation will face irrepressible opposition from Alberta,” said Smith.

“I genuinely do not want to see that happen.”

Read more: Notley slams feds, Alberta government’s reaction over ‘just transition’ bill

Opposition NDP leader Rachel Notley said though the objectives Smith listed are “laudable,” investors and workers don’t think she is credible because of her “combative and inflammatory positioning to date.”

“This late-breaking pivot won’t do anything to restore Albertans’ trust in Smith’s ability to engage productively at the discussion table on the future of our economy.”

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–With files from Meaghan Archer, Global News

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