Recently the Bloc Québecois put forth an amendment to Bill C-33, the innocuous-sounding “Strengthening the Port System and Railway Safety in Canada Act” that could strike another blow against Western Canada and our energy sector, including in Hinton. The amendment would accelerate the phasing out of thermal coal mining, including allowing the Federal Minister of Transportation Authority to establish a new schedule to implement a ban on the loading of thermal coal onto ships in port. At risk are hundreds of local jobs at the coal plant near Hinton which has been shipping thermal coal since 2019, dock workers in Vancouver, and railroad jobs.
The Bloc approach runs contrary to the Federal Government’s current direction to phase out thermal coal by 2030. By utilizing the Federal Marine Act, the Bloc’s original plan could have the transfer of coal stopped as early as the summer of 2024 – a full six years earlier then previously planned. By accelerating even the current Federal Government’s 2030 plans, it will leave too little time for local communities and governments to prepare for the impacts of these job losses.
The Bloc’s position also seems odd considering that Quebec is one of the largest recipients of Federal equalization payments in Canada and that Alberta is one of the largest contributors. And one wonders if these Quebec nationalists aren’t being hypocritical in their approach to the environment.
A few years ago environmental reviews were bypassed, and their own Provincial Government handed out hundreds of millions of dollars, to allow the construction of a cement plant in Port-Daniels-Gascons that became the largest emitter of “greenhouse gases” in the entire province. And we hardly need to be reminded of the massive quantities of raw sewage that Montreal has been allowed to dump into the St. Lawrence Seaway.
It is true that in 2021 the Federal Minister of Environment announced that “The Government of Canada considers that any new thermal coal mining projects, or expansion of existing thermal coal mines in Canada, are likely to cause unacceptable environmental effects”. The Minister also ruled at this time that the coal expansion project near Hinton should face a federal environmental review. So the Province of Alberta and Alberta Municipalities must continue to speak out against external opposition to coal and fossil fuels until some key issues can be addressed: the steep and probably unnecessary costs of hasty implementation of such policies, and the need for practical implementation plans that are in sync with our international competitors.
Clearly the Federal Government and Bloc think the environment in Quebec isn’t worth sacrificing any jobs for. But out West, well, no price is too high for us to pay to satisfy their patchy green credentials.
Stuart Taylor, Member of Hinton Town Council
PS: the ideas in this letter reflect only those of the author.