Rachel Notley might not receive the same warm welcome that awaited Communist leader Tim Buck when he visited the coal town of Nordegg, Alberta in April 1935, but that shouldn't stop her from visiting the communities impacted by the government's coal phase-out plans.

Notley owes Alberta’s Coal Communities an in-person visit

Mr. Jean: Thank you. The NDP has found time to fly to Paris, to Morocco, but they haven’t found time to visit communities like Hanna and Parkland county. They haven’t taken the time to look in the faces of the people who are now losing hope because this government does not have their backs. I can understand the Premier’s hesitation given that whenever the NDP stands in front of rural communities they get booed, but will the Premier commit to personally attending public meetings in towns like Hanna, Grande Cache, and Forestburg to see the damage her policies are having on people’s lives? Yes or no?

The Speaker: The hon. Premier. 

Ms Notley: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. As the member opposite knows, our government has appointed a panel to look into the matter of how we can orchestrate a just transition, a fair transition as the province moves off coal at an accelerated level beginning in 2030. That panel has been established. It has begun its work, and it will be travelling to all those communities very early in the new year.

Mr. Jean: That must be a no, Mr. Speaker.

The above is an exchange between Official Opposition leader Brian Jean and Premier Rachel Notley that took place during Question Period in the Alberta Legislative Assembly on the afternoon of November 22, 2016.

Rachel Notley Alberta NDP leader

Rachel Notley

The flagship of the NDP government’s policy agenda is its Climate Leadership Plan, a broad plan announced in November 2015 to address climate change in our province. A key element of the Climate Leadership Plan is the phasing-out of Alberta’s coal-fired electricity generation plants by 2030. The coal-fired plants are a significant source of carbon emissions and air pollution in our province.

Addressing climate change needs to be a priority and I am proud that the Alberta government has finally taken action on this file after a decade of foot-dragging by previous Conservative governments. But as it moves forward, the government also bears a responsibility to help communities like Hanna, Forestburg and Parkland County, where residents will be directly impacted by the closing of the coal plants.

Brian Jean Wildrose

Brian Jean

A government-appointed advisory panel has been tasked with studying and consulting with the impacted communities. While I have no reason to believe the panelists will do anything but their best, Albertans in those communities deserve more direct attention from the government.

After the uproar over Bill 6, the farm safety legislation passed by the Legislative Assembly in December 2015, I would have thought that NDP cabinet ministers would be more sensitive to the impact of their policies on working Albertans, who also happen to be rural Albertans. It is surprising to me that Ms. Notley has not made a point of making very public visits to these communities to meet with the Albertans who will be directly impacted by the coal phase-out.

They may have been spooked by the backlash to Bill 6 but that should have been a lesson to reach out to rural Alberta, rather than stay away. The NDP might not like what they hear from residents in those communities, but part of leading a government is meeting with people who disagree with you.

Phasing out dirty coal and transitioning to renewable energy represents a huge transformational change in how our province generates electricity, and Alberta should be on the cutting edge of this change.

As technology evolves and the government moves forward with its Climate Leadership Plan, the NDP has a responsibility to make sure no Albertans are left behind. Whether it requires retraining or new education, the government should make the residents of these communities feel like they are part of the solution rather than part of the problem.

The list of coal fired power plants and mines in Alberta.

The list of coal fired power plants and mines in Alberta and their phase-out dates (from the Government of Alberta website).

11 thoughts on “Notley owes Alberta’s Coal Communities an in-person visit

  1. Alfredo Louro

    Unfortunately, if we follow precedent, the premier would very likely be met with abuse and threats of violence, which Mr. Jean and friends happily ignore. Mr. Jean knows perfectly well that mere booing is not the problem.

    Apart from this, is taunting the premier the only thing Mr. Jean can think of in response to the matter of climate change and atmospheric pollution? If he doesn’t like closing coal-powered plants, what alternative policies does Mr. Jean have to offer?

    We all know the answer, of course: None whatsoever.

    Reply
    1. Craig Jorgensen

      The premier has a responsibility and the accompanying resources to be face to face in those communities. With proper precautions for her safety in the moment there is no reason she shouldn’t be present.

      Reply
  2. Val Jobson

    Interesting timing, Jean asking that on Tuesday and on Thursday this announcement with some hopeful news for the coal communities.

    “Under the terms of the deal the power producers are to keep their headquarters in Alberta, continue to invest in the province and work to provide support to the communities affected by the shutdown.”

    http://www.macleans.ca/news/coal-fired-electricity-in-alberta-to-be-phased-out-by-2030/

    Notley would probably rather visit them with some good news than with frustrating uncertainty.

    Reply
  3. Paul Doherty

    The picture you chose for this article was interesting – Tim Buck was leader of the Communist Party back in the 1920s and his welcome would have been a kick at the government of the day. The more things change…

    Reply
  4. Jim Storrie

    I agree with you, Dave. the coal phase-out and related climate policies are good policies, the correct policies, but they do disproportionately impact coal towns. our government needs to not just make these people whole but also clearly indicate that they are aware of and working to address that impact.

    Reply
  5. David

    In my view, politicians who go into an angry group of people and try to reason with them fall into two groups: the very brave and the very foolish The very brave often end up looking very foolish too.

    Some people are not going to like or accept this policy, whether it is good for the planet or everyone else is irrelevant because it hurts their interests.

    This doesn’t mean the government should not come up with policies that help cushion the blow for these people and have some communication process with them to design and put these policies in place – that would be both good politics and good sense, but however it is done it will still be an adjustment for them.

    Governing involves making many choices and not everyone benefits. If we expect our leaders can or should be able to please everyone, I can guarantee in that we will be disappointed.

    Reply
  6. David

    Is there really coal near Hanna? I thought that was oil country.

    In regard to low oil prices that are hurting Alberta, those were in effect for 10 months while the PC Party was the government. There was nothing the PCs could do about it either and in fact it was the reason the PCs lost the 2015 election.

    For those who don’t read varied sources of news, the US Secretary of State, John Kerry visited Saudi Arabia in 2014 and asked them to pump more oil so as to lower the price of oil and thereby hurt Russia’s economy because Russia is also a major oil producing and exporting country. This was an attempt to enhance the US hegemony in the world.

    Do an internet search about this topic.

    Reply
  7. David

    I took my own advice and search for Hanna coal mine. I see there is an open pit coal mine that supplies coal to two coal fired power plants.

    I can see why Hanna residents don’t like the phase out of coal.

    More people losing jobs in Alberta will not enhance the NDP government’s position.

    While no one likes to lose their livelihood, human caused climate change is real, however most of us alive now will not suffer the consequences of climate change and so we like to stick with what has worked up to now and has enabled us to make a living.

    Reply
  8. Bob Raynard

    Dave makes a compelling case, and a visit to Hanna is something Ms. Notley may want to consider. There are, however, two things that need to be considered.

    First, is the fact that Donald Trunp’s ascendency and election has really emboldened rude, inappropriate behaviour, as Shannon Phillips saw during her Q & A with the rural councillors earlier this month, and Ms. Notley would probably not be given the respect her office deserves.

    The second, and larger, problem is that people whose livelihood is threatened by the coal phaseout are all but certain to cling to climate change denial ideas espoused by Rebel Media, Friends of (Bad) Science etc, or the self serving arguments that advocate we do nothing about trying to fix the climate change problem. In the absence of any common ground, it is difficult to see much upside to a journey to coal country, other than the public relations side of being able to say the attempt was made.

    Reply
  9. Jennifer T.

    I understand that we need to be more aware of what we are doing to the economy, however, I think the way our premier is going about it, is completely wrong. There have been studies upon studies that have shown that the coal industry is cleaner than it’s ever been. Carbon footprint, my ass. Instead of letting these coal plants stay, it’ll cost $20-30 BILLION worth of investment to have them switched over to gas. So let’s shut down these coal-fired plants but they’ll still be allowed to invest in the province and help these communities…. I think that $20-30 billion could be put to better use.
    One thing I’ve noticed with this premier, is that she is so bullheaded that she doesn’t even look at the FACTS!!! It’s time she faces the FACTS!!!
    She wants to be an environmental leader. The way Alberta is heading, yea sure we’ll be an environmental leader– a leader straight into poverty and debt!!!!

    Reply

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