Alberta’s Coal Communities Deserve Better

Alberta’s Coal Communities Deserve Better

By Wildrose Shadow Electricity and Renewables Minister Don MacIntyre

Late last year, the NDP provincial government announced a plan to phase out all coal-fired electricity generation in Alberta by 2030.

It is an abrupt change of policy in a province that has been supported by coal for more than 100 years.

Coal currently accounts for more than half of Alberta’s electricity, and any major change will come with significant economic ramifications for all Albertans.

Ensuring clean and affordable power remains available across our province is vital, and Albertans deserve the opportunity for meaningful public consultation. Nowhere is the future of clean energy more important than in Alberta’s coal communities.

Every morning thousands of dedicated employees head to work at mines and plants all across our province, from Hanna to Hinton, from Wainwright to Wabamun. These are real people, living real lives in real communities. Some coach minor soccer. Some teach piano. Most shop at local stores and eat at local restaurants. Like all Albertans, they want to leave a better world for their children. These folks are proud to play a role in powering Alberta’s economic engine, and we all appreciate and benefit from their efforts.

These folks deserve better than to be treated as an afterthought of risky government policy. For this reason, in November the mayors and reeves of 30 Alberta municipalities published an open letter to

Premier Rachel Notley seeking consideration for the future of their communities.

In response, the Premier said, “we believe no one should disproportionately carry the cost of this necessary conversion. We will be providing appropriate adjustment programs to help us all move forward.”

The 2016 budget, however, fails to live up to Premier’s promise, providing just $195 million for “coal community transition.”

Today, about 5,600 workers are directly employed at mines and associated power plants across Alberta.

These are quality, full-time jobs; many are union jobs that help drive the economies of entire communities.

The fund set aside by the Notley administration won’t even cover these workers’ lost wages for a single year.

Alberta’s coal communities are right to be concerned.

Wildrose opposes tax-and-spend economics and thinly veiled corporate welfare schemes that allow government to pick winners and losers in the market.

We recognize that in these difficult times, no industry, sector, or worker should be considered expendable. To beat this recession, and help Alberta succeed in the 21st Century, we advocate policies that allow all Albertans to move forward together, including those who live in Alberta’s coal communities.

Standing up for our friends and neighbours: That’s what it means to be an Albertan.

Don MacIntyre is the MLA for Innisfail-Sylvan Lake