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How Will we Explain This Unusual Time in History to Future Generations?

Shane Wenzel

With all the chatter around the Prime Minister’s proposed ‘Just Transition’ plan, and the nuances surrounding what caused the federal government to change the name to ‘Sustainable Jobs,’ I gathered the courage to download the 32 pages headlined: ‘Sustainable Jobs Plan’.  It turns out it is not something one does for entertainment on a Saturday night.

Calgary businesses in every industry have been facing serious staffing challenges since thousands of workers lost their jobs after 2015 when the Welcome to Alberta lights were turned off. Along with industry and investors leaving town, it appears so did many talented workers.

Business owners along with Stats Canada reported this year that up to 40 per cent consider their inability to hire skilled employees their core business threat. In the third quarter of 2022, there were 103,000 vacant jobs in Alberta. My industry, and others I speak to, are wondering ‘where all the workers have gone.’ And why are ‘job-ghosting’ incidents occurring?

Regardless of the fact that Calgary is still leading the nation in job growth, for our economy to keep growing we need to solve the ‘missing worker’ problem. It becomes even more imperative with the federal government and others still ‘riding the rail’ for ending fossil fuels and others planning replacement industries. While the training planners appear to know little about what we need, they have noted that a shortage of trades in particular is beginning to hurt our current and future economy, along with their ‘cash drawer’. But they do seem to believe there is an easy solution. The idea behind their plan was to initially call it a ‘Just Transition’ which they also believed to be a winner. It appears they wanted us to believe that government is here to replace what they are taking away. Premier Smith and other concerned Albertans took offense to the reference ‘Just Transition’ which explains the sudden name change to a ‘Sustainable Jobs Plan.’ However, the content still contains lingering references to a ‘Just Transition’.

The plan is long and tedious to read, so I am on my fourth re-read looking for more clarity. There is a reference to the plan ending in March 2023, so we could be getting a new one. The plans for re-training have been allocating some large budgets but do reflect qualifiers. To participate, you must be in a sector deemed to be contributing to ‘a low carbon economy,’ and all funded training must be conducted by unions or not-for profits. No private ‘for-profit trainers’ need apply! The original name ‘Just Transition’ and the plan guidelines were also determined by the unions.

I recall there was a plan in Alberta piloted for phasing out coal-powered electricity by the Notley government which was also referred to as a ‘Just Transition’. So, this reference is not new to Albertans. Any successes with that pilot program are still to be reported.

To end on a lighter note, does anyone think Calgary will follow Edmonton’s decision to allow ‘topless swimming’ in all public pools? And will that fall under ‘Sustainable Jobs’ training as it surely will require new jobs to manage.