Bruske: How Canada can create sustainable jobs as we shift to a low-carbon future

June 19, 2023

By Bea Bruske, President of the Canadian Labour Congress as published in the Ottawa Citizen

Bill C-50, just tabled, provides a roadmap toward making Canada’s economy competitive for years to come.

“On a global scale, clean energy investment has surpassed spending on oil and gas for the first time.” From raging wildfires to extreme storms, each day brings stark reminders of the impacts of climate change and the urgent need for climate action. Climate change is an undeniable reality, and its effects are worsening. Regardless of who might be in power a decade from now, Canada must act today to fulfill its role in the global fight against climate change while securing our position in the low-carbon economy of the future.

Last year, the United States took a significant leap forward with the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), placing immense pressure on Canada to keep pace or risk falling behind. The IRA outlined the Biden administration’s plan to slash emissions, invest in clean energy and provide direct supports to communities.

The Canadian government’s response began to take shape when it committed to invest $80 billion over the next decade and signed notable deals with Volkswagen and Stellantis. With the introduction of the Sustainable Jobs Act, C-50, Canada is taking another important step forward for our workers and businesses. This legislation provides a roadmap for making Canada’s economy competitive for years to come.

On a global scale, clean energy investment has surpassed spending on oil and gas for the first time, signalling the most substantial transformation of our economy in recent memory. With fierce global competition to attract new investments, Canada faces the potential loss of up to $600 billion over the next 15 years if we fail to get this right.

Our competitive advantage lies in Canada’s businesses, workers and government working together to ensure that new industrial investments entice companies to do business in Canada and that this new economic activity brings tangible benefits to our people and communities.

At the heart of this new Act is a Sustainable Jobs Partnership Council, bringing workers and business together to advise the government on the best ways to create sustainable jobs in this new economy. We believe that at the core of Canada’s approach must be the fundamental principle that workers deserve a meaningful seat at the table and a voice in decision-making around Canada’s industrial strategy. We must provide workers with a pathway to the good jobs of tomorrow while giving the labour movement a real say in any new government body making decisions about workers’ futures.

Multinational corporations possess influential platforms and a strong lobby. They prioritize their investors’ interests. But Canada’s labour movement represents everyday people and brings forward the unique experiences and insights of Canada’s workers.

The decisions we make now will determine whether we build thriving communities powered by good, family-supporting union jobs with decent pay, pensions and benefits. Providing better training and apprenticeship support will mean people can keep their jobs as their industry moves to new low-carbon technologies or learn the skills they need to take on new jobs. We also have a once-in-a-generation opening to create new opportunities for historically excluded people, including women, Indigenous and racialized workers, workers with disabilities and other equity-seeking groups.

By bringing labour, industry and government together, the Sustainable Jobs Act provides a new approach that can position Canada at the forefront of the global low-carbon economy. Working together, we can create good union jobs while we help businesses shift to cleaner technologies, move to lower-emissions manufacturing jobs, and make Canada a leading supplier of the critical minerals needed for new low-carbon technologies.

This is how we can build the kinds of flourishing communities Canadians want for their children and grandchildren.

Bea Bruske is President of the Canadian Labour Congress. Follow her on Twitter @PresidentCLC

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