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Sustainable jobs act heads to the Senate



The federal government’s Canadian Sustainable Jobs Act finally passed third reading after spending just shy of a year in the House of Commons, including 20 hours in committee and a 12-hour voting period due to Conservative efforts to delay the bill.

The bill will give workers and affected groups a say in how the government tries to create sustainable jobs and facilitate the shift to a net-zero economy. It now goes to the Senate to be studied and possibly amended before it can become law.

The act requires the federal government to report every five years on what it’s doing to build an economy with sustainable jobs and those job plans must draw from the advice of a council comprised of representatives from different affected groups, like trade unions, industry, Indigenous Peoples, environmental NGOs and other stakeholders.

Much like the federal government’s consumer fuel levy, the 11-page bill has attracted the ire of Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre’s caucus, with natural resources shadow critic Shannon Stubbs leading the charge.

Stubbs and conservative MPs regularly refer to Bill C-50 as “Soviet-style, top-down, central planning” and part of a “globalist” agenda to kill jobs in Canada’s oil and gas sector.

At a popular right-wing networking conference last week, Stubbs spoke at length about Bill C-50 in a fireside chat with Tim McMillan, who spent nearly eight years as president of the oil lobby group Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers after leaving provincial politics in 2014.

“Because of the procedural tactics, not a single Canadian worker, entrepreneur, Indigenous leader or energy worker or business owner or any Canadian in any sector in any province will be able to talk … on record in the House of Commons at all,” said Stubbs on April 11. It is true that the committee did not hear from any witnesses during its study of the sustainable jobs act.

“That opportunity did not exist because the Conservatives filibustered for weeks on end,” said Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson in a phone interview with Canada’s National Observer. For a month, the committee meetings were filled with countless points of order and there wasn’t any meaningful discussion of the legislation.

“It’s a shame that workers and industry and others were not able to weigh in effectively on the bill … but it is a function of the tactics that were employed by the Conservative Party,” said Wilkinson.

Bill C-50, the Canadian Sustainable Jobs Act, passed its final vote in the House of Commons on Monday and will now go to the Senate. #cdnpoli

Conservative MPs tabled almost 20,000 amendments during the committee stage in December.

“I don’t think we’ve ever seen that in the history of Parliament,” said Wilkinson.

MPs voted on another 200 conservative amendments last Thursday and Friday, which took roughly 15 hours.

NDP MP and natural resources critic Charlie Angus, who worked closely with labour groups and the Liberals to craft the bill, celebrated its passage on April 15 and panned Conservative efforts to delay the legislation, which during a late-night committee meeting, involved a lot of yelling.

“The International Energy Agency, hardly anything known as a left-wing think tank, in [its] most recent report said we are witnessing the end of the fossil fuel era. We have to prepare ourselves for the next era,” said Angus on Monday.

Wilkinson thinks the Conservatives have dug in so much “because this is a fight to the death in terms of the future of oil and gas.”

“I think they are picking, by far and away, the wrong fight,” said Wilkinson, who has been clear he sees a continuing role for oil and gas, particularly for non-combustible uses, like fertilizer.

“But you’ve actually got to recognize that the oil and gas industry needs to reduce emissions and … accept the fact that we are going to peak in terms of demand for oil and gas in the next few years,” said Wilkinson.

A scenario where global demand for oil and gas grows exponentially “is completely inconsistent with any commitment to climate change,” he added.

Before being referred to the Senate, MPs had one more opportunity to debate the bill and Bloc Québécois MP Mario Simard took the opportunity to ask Stubbs if she believes the oil and gas sector has some responsibility for climate change.

He did not get a clear answer. Instead, Stubbs said, “What I believe is that governments and politicians have to be honest about their policies and about what they stand for” and then reiterated the common Conservative refrain that “emissions reductions should be achieved through technology, not taxes.”

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