New transition supports for Alberta coal workers
The Government of Alberta is creating a worker transition fund, focusing supports on the ground, and calling on the federal government do its part to support coal workers.
The $40-million Coal Workforce Transition Fund will provide income support to workers transitioning from working in Alberta’s thermal coal mines and coal-fired power plants to new jobs or retirement.
The province is requesting that the federal government immediately create new flexibility criteria in the federal Employment Insurance (EI) program that would allow workers to receive these income supports without reducing their EI payments – and to also extend the duration of EI benefits for coal workers.
“Alberta coal workers have a proud history of helping to power our prosperous and industrious province. I’ve heard first-hand how important it is to make sure we support workers and families as the country transitions away from coal. We’re calling on the federal government to step up and do their part to ensure this fund can help these workers earn a good living for themselves and their families.”
“To all Alberta coal workers: we have your back. We know the move away from coal has created a lot of uncertainty, and that’s why we are working with you to make sure you have new opportunities to build a good life for yourselves and your families in your communities. Our government stands ready to support you.”
In addition to the Coal Workforce Transition Fund, the Government of Alberta will provide workers with:
- Direct support from facilitators with Alberta Labour who will meet with workers, their unions and employers to connect them with the supports that work best for them.
- Tuition vouchers to help cover costs related to post-secondary education, such as tuition, books and mandatory fees.
- Third-party retraining programs that provide employment placement, job matching and options for work exposure.
- A variety of professional certification courses.
The new initiatives for workers are in addition to the recently announced Coal Community Transition Fund, which supports locally led projects that focus on regional partnerships and economic diversification in Alberta’s coal communities.
Both initiatives are part of the Alberta government’s response to recommendations from the Advisory Panel on Coal Communities.
The province commissioned the coal panel’s work following the Coal Transition Report from world-renowned energy expert Terry Boston. Boston has worked on complex energy issues for decades on four continents, and oversaw the successful transition off coal for one of the world’s largest electricity grids.
Based on his recommendations, the Alberta government reached agreements last year that ensure power companies:
- fulfil their existing and future legal obligations to affected employees, including severance and pension obligations
- keep their head offices in Alberta
- continue to generate power for Alberta’s electricity market
These steps provide options for transitioning to new electricity generation that would see coal communities continue to power Alberta and create new long-term, local economic opportunities.
- Canada is one of many countries moving towards natural gas and renewables – while moving away from coal-powered electricity.
- In 2012, the Harper government approved regulations to end coal-powered electrical generation at Battle River and Sundance in 2019, at Keephills in 2029, and at Sheerness starting in 2036.
- In 2014, the Harper government introduced regulations that would have prevented all Alberta coal plants from converting to natural gas.
- The Trudeau government has since shortened Canada’s coal phase-out deadline to Dec. 31, 2029.
- The Alberta government ensured coal communities continue to power our province by securing exemptions from the Trudeau government that allow coal plants to continue operating past federally mandated end-dates through conversion to natural gas.
- This lines up closely with the Alberta government’s Climate Leadership Plan, which will phase out coal-fired electricity and transition to renewable and natural gas-generated electricity by 2030.