Alberta Premier Danielle Smith’s demands have so far failed to get a face-to-face with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on federal legislation meant to prepare workers for jobs in the low-carbon economy.
In a letter to Trudeau made public on Thursday , Premier Danielle Smith asked for a February meeting and a joint agreement to shape the upcoming federal legislation long promised as the Just Transition plan. The bill hasn’t been introduced, but it has already drawn fire from critics, including Smith, who have argued it’s an existential threat to the province’s oil and gas sector.
The federal response came in a tweet Thursday evening from Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson, Labour Minister Seamus O’Regan and Associate Finance Minister Randy Boissonnault.
The three ministers said much of what Smith spoke in favour of lines up with what the federal government will produce, including their preference for the term Sustainable Jobs, a label they have most recently been using for the plan.
Taylor Hides, a spokesperson for premier Smith’s office, said in a statement to Postmedia Friday afternoon they are waiting to hear back from the prime minister.
“Although we appreciate the conciliatory words from the ministers, the premier has asked for a meeting with the prime minister and a collaborative process set up thereafter to achieve the goals outlined in the premier’s letter,” Hides wrote.
That letter represents a shift in tone from earlier this month, when Smith promised to fight the federal government’s plan with “every tool” at the province’s disposal. Smith has argued the plan would kill hundreds of thousands of jobs — an assertion the federal government has countered by saying it’s about creating and supporting jobs .
In her letter, Smith warned there will be “irrepressible opposition” from Alberta if Ottawa doesn’t meet specific demands.
The premier argued that, in an extension of good faith to Albertans, Ottawa needs to agree to “set reasonable and meaningful emissions reductions targets,” accelerate investment and job creation in conventional oil and gas as well as in industries like carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS), and to expand the export of liquified natural gas to Asia and Europe.
Ottawa has projected the oil and gas industry needs to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 42 per cent from current levels if Canada is to meet its targets.
Smith also wants to see Ottawa show that nothing in the new act will be designed to phase out or reduce Alberta’s conventional oil and natural gas sector and workforce, arguing Canada needs to signal its intention to provide “substantially more” oil and gas to the world.
In their statement, the three federal ministers said they would “always support and make sure Alberta continues to be a global energy leader.” They also pointed to the federal and provincial government’s combined $476 million investment in a $1.6 billion Air Products hydrogen facility in Edmonton, and a Thursday announcement from Imperial Oil that it would be sourcing hydrogen from Air Products as part of its $720 million renewable diesel plant in Strathcona, near Edmonton.
“We look forward to continuing our ongoing work with you, your cabinet, unions and all partners on this important work,” they wrote.
The federal government has held roundtable meetings over the development of the plan, but Alberta’s Environment Minister Sonya Savage has said the province didn’t participate because it rejected the initial framework.
Alberta NDP Opposition Leader Rachel Notley has demanded Ottawa scrap its plans for the legislation, and has called its emissions targets impractical.
On Thursday, Notley said Smith’s “late-breaking pivot” won’t do anything to restore Albertans’ trust in the premier to engage productively at the discussion table.
“Many of the objectives in today’s letter are laudable but Danielle Smith lacks credibility among working people and investors as a result of her combative and inflammatory positioning to date,” said Notley.