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$40M transition fund for coal workers

Christina Gray, Minister of Labour, and Deron Bilous, Minister of Economic Development and Trade, announce supports for workers affected by coal phase-out. | Alberta/Flickr

The Alberta government said on Friday it would help out of work coal miners with a $40 million transition fund, calling out its federal counterpart in the process.

The $40-million Coal Workforce Transition Fund will provide income support to workers transitioning from working in Alberta’s thermal coal mines and coal-fired power plants to new jobs or retirement.

The province is requesting that the federal government immediately create new flexibility criteria in the federal Employment Insurance (EI) program that would allow workers to receive these income supports without reducing their EI payments and to also extend the duration of EI benefits for coal workers, a press release from the ministries of labour and economic development said.

In 2012, the Harper government approved regulations to end coal-powered electrical generation at Battle River and Sundance in 2019, at Keephills in 2029, and at Sheerness starting in 2036. In 2014, the Harper government introduced regulations that would have prevented all Alberta coal plants from converting to natural gas. The Trudeau government has since shortened Canada’s coal phase-out deadline to Dec. 31, 2029.

“To all Alberta coal workers: we have your back,” Labour Minister Christine Gray said. “We know the move away from coal has created a lot of uncertainty, and that’s why we are working with you to make sure you have new opportunities to build a good life for yourselves and your families in your communities. Our government stands ready to support you.”

In addition to the Coal Workforce Transition Fund, the Government of Alberta will provide workers with:

  • Direct support from facilitators with Alberta Labour who will meet with workers, their unions and employers to connect them with the supports that work best for them.
  • Tuition vouchers to help cover costs related to post-secondary education, such as tuition, books and mandatory fees.
  • Third-party retraining programs that provide employment placement, job matching and options for work exposure.
  • A variety of professional certification courses.

The new initiatives for workers are in addition to the recently announced Coal Community Transition Fund, which supports locally led projects that focus on regional partnerships and economic diversification in Alberta’s coal communities.

Both initiatives are part of the Alberta government’s response to recommendations from the Advisory Panel on Coal Communities.

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