Although Alberta is the clear leader in oil and gas production in Canada, the province of Saskatchewan ranks second, with about 13% of Canada’s total crude oil production. Saskatchewan also derives approximately 40 per cent of its power from coal. Yet on October 27 and 28, progressive organizations in that province convened an enthusiastic forum, Just Transitions: Building Saskatchewan’s Next Economy Summit in Regina. Sessions most related to employment issues included: “Transitioning Employment and Work”, moderated by Hadrian Mertins-Kirkwood of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, and including panels on “Labour and Just Transition” by Unifor, CUPW and SEIU West. There was also a session on “Phasing out Coal” , presented by Climate Justice Saskatoon and Chris Gallaway of the Alberta Federation of Labour. The full list of presentations is here .
Local media coverage appeared in the Regina Leader-Post newspaper, and several items at CBC-Saskatchewan, including: “Indigenous perspective must be heard on climate change, Regina conference told” ; “Regina summit looks at what shift from coal to renewable energy means for future of Sask. Economy” (specifically reporting on the town of Coronach, home of the Poplar River coal mine and associated Poplar River Generating Station, threatened by the federal government’s goal to phase-out coal generated electricity by 2030); and an Opinion piece by Emily Eaton from the University of Regina “Beyond ‘jobs versus environment’: Transitions to renewable energy present opportunities for us all” (Oct. 25).
Emily Eaton was one of the authors of “Winds of Change: Public Opinion on Energy Politics in Saskatchewan” , published in April 2018 by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives Saskatchewan office. Based on a public opinion poll of 500 Saskatchewan adults, the report summarizes the political climate in Saskatchewan and shows that despite the government’s opposition to carbon taxes and the Pan-Canada Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change, there is public support for a transition away from fossil fuels, and for government investment in solar and wind power.
The Saskatchewan event follows the Just Transition and Good Jobs for Alberta 2018 meetings, held in Edmonton on October 22 and 23, with active participation and sponsorship of USW, Unifor, and the Alberta Federation of Labour. This was the third year of meetings, coordinated by BlueGreen Canada.
Update: In November, Climate Justice Saskatchewan has released a report, The Future of Coal in Saskatchewan: Bridging the Gap: building bridges between urban environmental groups and coal-producing communities in Saskatchewan . The report summarizes what was heard during 17 interviews with citizens of the small coal-producing communities of Estevan and Coronach during the spring of 2018, and draws some conclusions which might have application for other social justice and climate justice initiatives. In general, the interviews exposed the unique challenges of each rural community, but found a common sense of uncertainty stemming from a lack of planning and communication about phasing out coal, bound up in wider challenges of rural decline, agricultural trends, and the boom-and-bust cycles of oil and gas.