The sustainable jobs nothingburger

For now, the only part of the Liberals’ Sustainable Jobs Plan that could actually be called a plan is the hiring of more government workers. Pictured is Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson. Photo credit: The Canadian Press/Sean Kilpatrick


After three years of jabbering on about the so-called “Just Transition”, the federal Liberals recently came out with what they called the Sustainable Jobs Plan, which was supposed to outline how moving people out of their employment in the oil and gas sector to the new green economy would be seamlessly achieved. This document is shockingly empty of any real plan, leading many critics to call it “a plan to have a plan”.

As is customary with these Liberal “plans”, there are timelines included. Not timelines with goals that are ever actually achieved though. Although Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson implied that he would be announcing actual details of the transition plan early this year, it has now been bumped to the summer when they promise legislation will be forthcoming. The Minister also claimed that the plan could create as many as 400,000 new jobs by 2030, stating that there would be so many jobs created by the new green economy that there would likely not be enough people to fill them. As the promises of well-paying green jobs have to date fallen far short of government predictions, it is likely that these claims will also disappoint. 

Whatever the government comes up with this year is apparently intended as an interim plan for the years 2023-2025, following which they will develop a more complete sustainable jobs plan every five years. The Liberals also seem to be moving away from the “just transition” wording they have used up until now for this policy. They now seem to prefer referring to “sustainable jobs”, presumably thinking it will be better received than the phrase “just transition”, which has been widely criticized. 

This plan also involves the creation of a new government entity which is supposed to oversee the process, any training programs that will be created, various consultation mechanisms including with Indigenous communities and the monitoring of the transition from current to future jobs. 

If you have ever wondered why the federal government bureaucracy has been growing so robustly in recent years, consider the fact that every policy the Liberals announce seems to require the creation of yet another brand-new government entity with all the attendant costs, new public sector employees, travel budgets, pensions, and other entitlements. Indeed, the only part of the Sustainable Jobs Plan that could actually be called a plan is the hiring of more government workers. And despite all the new personnel and money spent on expanding the federal government, the quality of our public services continues to decline. 

Perhaps the Liberals refrained from putting out a more detailed game plan at this time because of the imminent Alberta election at the end of May 2023. More specific measures that the Liberals might have in mind to move Albertans and energy workers in other provinces out of the well-paid fossil fuel sector into other ill-defined green jobs would undoubtedly give Premier Danielle Smith great election fodder with which to hammer the Trudeau government and the Alberta Opposition NDP party. This is likely giving the Liberals far too much strategic credit, however, as it is more likely that they just don’t have a clue how they are going to orchestrate this transition without serious damaging the livelihoods of many Canadians. 

Reacting to the Liberal’s announcement, Smith has been critical of the federal plan on the basis that it does not include a liquified natural gas export strategy, which would be a clear win for Canada and the world that currently needs more efficient and reliable energy sources. Smith has also expressed concern about the federal government’s apparent inability to recognize the rights of provinces to manage their own natural resources. 

One of the most telling elements about the announcement of this supposedly key strategy of the Liberal government was that it was announced on a Friday, the day all governments announce policies they want to hide. Overall, the Sustainable Jobs Plan will give comfort to no one that the federal government has any idea as to how such a complex and difficult job transition might take place, despite their claims that it will be virtually painless. This report turned out to be a complete nothingburger. All things considered, this nothingburger should at least be plant-based. 

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