Final Report by the Task Force on Just Transition for Canadian Coal Power Workers and Communities: section 10

Annex A: Recommendations for the Government of Canada

For the purposes of our recommendations:

  • Affected Workers means workers who have permanent jobs (full-time or part-time) at a coal mine or a coal-fired generating station, now and throughout the transition, including those workers who were laid off from these facilities starting in 2017
  • Affected Communities means communities that depend on a coal mine or a coal-fired generating station for employment, tax or royalty revenue, services, impact benefit agreements, or economic activity

Embed just transition principles in planning, legislative, regulatory, and advisory processes to ensure ongoing and concrete actions throughout the coal phase-out transition

Recommendation 1: Develop, communicate, implement, monitor, evaluate, and publicly report on a just transition plan for the coal phase-out, championed by a lead minister to oversee and report on progress

  • Building on our report, the Government of Canada would initiate a multi-stage planning process for this transition in close collaboration with provinces, employers, workers, unions, municipalities, and economic development organizations
  • The lead minister would be responsible for the plan and would be held accountable for its overall success. To ensure short and long-term accountability, the plan would clearly define and assign responsibility to all other ministers who are responsible for implementing parts of the plan. Key to the ultimate success of the plan will be the ability for federal departments and agencies to coordinate service delivery and prioritize expenditures in their respective areas of responsibility
  • While the plan would have concrete and time-bound actions, it also needs to have the necessary flexibility to evolve as new transition options and opportunities emerge over the next decade
  • An independent multi-stakeholder advisory council, comprised of trusted representatives, would provide advice and oversight to the Government on just transition. Through such a body, unions could continue to play an important role in policy development and delivery, respecting their deep knowledge of the issues, relationship with workers, existing networks, and long-term commitments to the workers, families, and communities
  • The Government of Canada would work with partners to evaluate, assess, and report on the effectiveness of the plan and the phase-out’s actual impacts on workers and communities—from 2019 to 2030 and beyond
  • Annual public reporting and a detailed report to Parliament every five years would ensure accountability and transparency

Recommendation 2: Include provisions for just transition in federal environmental and labour legislation and regulations, as well as relevant intergovernmental agreements

  • New government actions must be robust and difficult to reverse, grounded by new legislative, regulatory, or intergovernmental obligations
  • Including just transition provisions in relevant agreements between federal and provincial governments would demonstrate clear commitment and transparency, for example:
    • equivalency agreements under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999
    • infrastructure bilateral agreements
    • labour market development agreements
  • Widespread support for continued climate change action is at risk of eroding if strong just transition provisions are not embedded in climate change and labour policy

Recommendation 3: Establish a targeted, long-term research fund for studying the impact of the coal phase-out and the transition to a low-carbon economy

  • Academic studies can provide essential longitudinal analysis of phase-out impacts, transition support outcomes, and help ensure that best practices are widely shared
  • The focus would be on longitudinal, socioeconomic research to assess the effectiveness of governmental planning and programming, in addition to the impacts on workers, their families, and their communities
  • Such studies would support a multi-disciplinary and multi-stakeholder network to encourage sharing of information

Ensure locally available supports

Recommendation 4: Fund the establishment and operation of locally-driven transition centres in affected communities

  • The Government of Canada would work with provinces, municipalities, regional organizations, employers, and unions to establish transition centres
  • Based on the lessons learned from earlier transition centres, affected workers would benefit the most from transition centres that:
    • are launched before job losses
    • are open for at least two years post phase-out
    • involve a wide range of stakeholders in their management and operation
    • are staffed with local residents and experts, who can build face-to-face relationships with workers and families
    • create a single hub that provides a wide range of services, such as re-employment support (e.g., improving numeracy and literacy, writing resumes, starting a small business), training, and social support services
    • provide workers, families, and communities with the information they need to make sound decisions
    • provide financial advice and social and health services, including programs and counselling for families and youth, substance-abuse and addiction, and mental health
    • serve to connect affected workers with employment opportunities stemming from regional economic development and diversification

Provide workers a pathway to retirement

Recommendation 5: Create a pension bridging program for workers who will retire earlier than planned due to the coal phase out

  • This program would provide a financial bridge to retirement without compromising workers’ earnings and retirement benefits
  • How this program approaches pension bridging will vary depending on the type of each workplace plan. The program will need to be developed in close collaboration with unions, provincial governments and employers

Transition workers to sustainable employment

Recommendation 6: Create a detailed and publicly available inventory with labour market information pertaining to coal workers, such as skills profiles, demographics, locations, and current and potential employers

  • A broad inventory would serve two main purposes:
    • provide a baseline of labour market information
    • be the starting point for a job bank to help match workers’ existing skillsets with potential new employment opportunities, thereby helping workers make informed decisions about retraining or additional education
  • This inventory, or products based on it, would be developed in partnership with employers, unions, provinces, and municipalities, and be made available to workers, employers, transition centres, and researchers studying coal phase-out transition, while respecting privacy restrictions
  • By using this inventory, affected workers would have access to important information to assess future needs and opportunities, as well as to facilitate connections with potential employers

Recommendation 7: Create a comprehensive funding program for workers staying in the labour market to address their needs across the stages of securing a new job, including income support, education and skills building, re-employment, and mobility

  • This fund could be a federal program or the Government could provide funding to the provinces to administer
  • A single window would provide workers with multiple streams of support to address a broad range of needs
  • An income support stream would address workers’ concerns about receiving adequate support as they transition to new employment:
    • provide affected workers with EI benefits of up to 75% of income for two years, regardless of home province
    • exclude severance and income support benefits that affected workers receive when calculating EI benefits
    • provide wage top-ups of up to 90% of previously earned income for up to two years for affected workers who go back to work but in lower-wage jobs
  • Provide funding to continue private healthcare plan coverage for up to two years. An education and skills building stream would provide workers up to $20,000 for a maximum of two years to retrain, upgrade skills, and pursue additional education
    • This could be delivered by a university, community college, or union-affiliated training centre
    • The funding would be available to workers while they are still working and cover a variety of expenses, such as tuition, books, and travel
  • A re-employment stream would connect affected workers with employers, using the inventory developed as part of Recommendation 6 and prioritizing jobs in the new economy whenever possible
    • This action could include renewed support for sector councils to facilitate the recognition of affected workers’ current skills, including through formal certificates. This could be done through transition centres, working in partnership with employers, unions, and others
  • A mobility stream would compensate those who relocate or travel long distances for new work. This program would help to offset the expenses of having to travel or relocate for new employment:
    • Provide up to $10,000 to those who relocate permanently; or, cover mileage for those who travel long distances for work (more than 250 km one way), consistent with the National Joint Council’s allowances or the Canada Revenue Agency’s non-taxable allowances, for up to two years
    • If a provincial government also provides travel or relocation assistance, any additional federal support should not replace or reduce the provincial assistance provided

Invest in community infrastructure

Recommendation 8: Identify, prioritize, and fund local infrastructure projects in affected communities

  • Working with municipal, Indigenous, and provincial governments, the Government of Canada should look for ways to fund local infrastructure projects, including through existing programs like the Investing in Canada plan
  • New local infrastructure projects should help offset employment losses from the coal phase-out in the short term and support economic growth over the medium to long term
  • Wherever possible, and likely through local transition centres, connect affected coal workers and families to new employment opportunities from infrastructure projects

Fund community planning, collaboration, diversification, and stabilization

Recommendation 9: Establish a dedicated, comprehensive, inclusive, and flexible just transition funding program for affected communities

  • Communities need new funding for a variety of purposes, including undertaking planning activities like feasibility studies, community workshops, and action plans
  • A dedicated fund could provide bridge funding to municipalities experiencing tax-base shortfalls and lost economic activity caused by the coal phase-out. Doing so would enable continued local services, support communities to diversify, and incentivize communities to work together, whenever possible
  • Managed by a trusted partner like the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, this fund would offer a single window for communities to access supports, with multiple streams that address the range of needs:
    • capacity funding to enable affected communities to plan for the future, including funding for communities or regions to hire transition coordinators
    • stabilization funding to help affected communities continue to deliver essential services, diversify their economies, create new job opportunities, and realize their economic potential
    • collaboration funding to bring affected communities together, possibly through a series of in-person workshops, and create a network of municipalities to share information, best practices, and lessons learned

Recommendation 10: Meet directly with affected communities to learn about their local priorities and to connect them with federal programs that could support their goals

  • Affected communities would benefit from government-initiated discussions regarding opportunities to access existing funds, services, and programs. Doing so would help address the administrative burden of identifying, understanding, and applying for dozens of distinct initiatives.
  • Wherever possible, multiple departments should travel together to meet with affected communities. This will reduce consultation fatigue and be the best use of communities’ time, given limited resources.
  • Representatives of the Government of Canada’s Clean Growth Hub, which provides centralized advice on clean technology programs and services, should visit all the affected communities to explore how the Government’s clean technology programs could fund local priorities.

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