No Worker Left Behind A Job Creation Strategy for Energy Transition in Alberta
1 February 2023
Countries around the world are transitioning their economies to reduce carbon emissions and slow the impact of the climate crisis. In Canada, the federal government has a plan to reduce national emissions to 40% below 2005 levels by 2030. Alberta has made many positive steps toward building a clean energy future. Our province must further embrace the chance to be a clean-energy leader, or we risk being left behind as other places invest and innovate. Albertans and Canadians need to be well-positioned to benefit from the opportunities that will arise as the world builds a low-carbon economy. All levels of government need to engage with their constituents to ensure policies will support a more equitable future for all. Workers on the front lines of the energy transition need to lead the discussion about how best to transform Canada’s energy economy. The Canadian union movement has been instrumental in developing the concept of just transition and has considerable experience in its implementation. The Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL) recently published an industrial blueprint on how to create 200,000 energy jobs in Alberta as we build a sustainable economy by 2050. This report weaves together key points of the AFL’s plan with insights from financial institutions and policy research groups, as well as contextualization and information provided by Parkland Institute’s February 2022 conference, “Implementing a Just Transition.” Background: Alberta Oil and Gas Jobs, Capital Spending, and Demand The energy transition needs to be discussed against the background of the shrinking job market in the Canadian oil and gas industry. From September 2014 through December 2022, the Canadian oil and gas industry cut 19% of its workforce — 43,548 jobs — due to structural changes and increasing automation. About 81% of these job cuts — 35,160 jobs — were in Alberta. There are three connected reasons for Canadian oil and gas job cuts: decreasing capital spending, increasing use of automation, and increasing use of modular facility designs. Fewer engineering, construction, operational, and office jobs are now needed to produce growing volumes of oil and gas. Accelerating automation is arising in the context of the climate emergency which is largely caused by the burning of fossil fuels. Leading oil and gas companies are speeding up automation to lower production costs by cutting jobs because they know they will soon be competing in a shrinking market.
Ian Hussey began his work as a research manager at the University of Alberta’s Parkland Institute in 2014, and he earned a career appointment in 2019. He is the author of “No Worker Left Behind: A Job Creation Strategy for Energy Transition in Alberta” (Parkland Institute, 2023), “Job Creation or Job Loss? Big Companies Use Tax Cut to Automate Away Jobs in the Oil Sands” (Parkland Institute, 2022), and “The Future of Alberta’s Oil Sands Industry: More Production, Less Capital, Fewer Jobs” (Parkland Institute, 2020). Ian is also the co-author, with Emma Jackson, of “Alberta’s Coal Phase-Out: A Just Transition?” (Parkland Institute, 2019). Previously, Ian was a steering committee member of the Corporate Mapping Project, a seven-year initiative supported by the Social Science and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) that was focused on the oil, gas, and coal industries in Western Canada (2015-2022).