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Liberals and NDP accuse Conservatives of mounting ‘attack’ on energy workers

Liberals, New Democrats and labour organizations are accusing the Conservatives of holding up legislation they say would support oil and gas workers through the transition to a low-carbon economy.

Studies of bills meant to foster offshore energy production in Atlantic Canada (Bill C-49) and the emergence of sustainable jobs (Bill C-50) are being held up because of filibustering.

The bills are supposed to be before the House of Commons natural resources committee, but the studies have not begun because of procedural wrangling by Conservative MPs.

“This kind of stuff is just a joke. It’s ridiculous,” said Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson. “Canadians, if they came here and they actually were in the room and observed this, they would be appalled at the work that is not being done in this place.

“So I am concerned because I don’t know when this is going to end.”

NDP energy critic Charlie Angus and labour leaders who represent energy workers called a news conference Thursday to speak about the impasse at the committee.

WATCH | NDP critic Charlie Angus says Pierre Poilievre is offering nothing to energy workers 

Conservatives using ‘Gong Show’ tactics: NDP

9 hours ago

Duration 3:19

Featured VideoNDP energy critic Charlie Angus calls on Conservatives to stop blocking legislation supporting energy workers.

“We’re here this morning to call out [Conservative Leader] Pierre Poilievre’s attempt to attack the future of Canadian workers, and Canadian energy workers in particular,” Angus said.

“The Conservatives interfered, undermined, used Gong Show tactics, petty whining, continual interference to derail the voice of workers who are living the energy transition now and expect from the Canadian government a better future.”

The NDP supports the two pieces of legislation under study. The sustainable jobs bill was a key NDP demand in the confidence and supply agreement that allows the minority Liberal government to pass legislation.

Why do Conservatives oppose the bills?

Federal Conservatives and the Alberta government of Premier Danielle Smith have opposed both bills, particularly the sustainable jobs legislation.

The right-of-centre parties argue the sustainable jobs bill is a Trojan horse meant to phase out Canada’s oil and gas sector.

The Conservative vice-chair of the natural resources committee, Shannon Stubbs, told CBC in a media statement that “the NDP-Liberals have used every tool to block, delay, and kill Canadian energy projects and jobs.”

Stubbs said Conservatives will use “every tool” to stand up for Canada’s energy sector.

“We will block, delay and challenge Trudeau’s anti-development, anti-private sector policy punishment of workers to ‘phase out’ hundreds of thousands of paychecks for his radical agenda,” Stubbs wrote.

Conservative MP Shannon Stubbs rises during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, on Wednesday, May 17, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Spencer Colby
Conservative MP Shannon Stubbs rises during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill on May 17, 2023. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Spencer Colby)

Conservatives, she said, support both Canada’s traditional and alternative energy sectors in order “to bring home more affordable energy and powerful paychecks for Canadians instead of dollars in the pockets of foreign dictators.”

Conservatives are farming rage: Liberals

Gil McGowan, the president of the Alberta Federation of Labour, said the Conservatives are dismissing the need to prepare for a new energy future. The International Energy Agency projects that fossil fuel demand will peak this decade.

“Do they think it’s better to stick our heads in the sand than plan for a future that’s clearly going to be different from our past? Do they really think that that’s in the best interest of Canadians and, especially, working Canadians?” McGowan asked.

Labour Minister Seamus O’Regan said Conservatives are trying to tap into the frustration of fossil fuel workers who may feel left out of a changing economy.

O’Regan said the government’s two pieces of legislation are an attempt to ensure workers don’t get left behind. They do not call for the phasing out of Canada’s fossil fuel sector. The sustainable jobs act (Bill C-50) specifically creates an independent body with members from Indigenous organizations, industry and labour to advise the government on how to support workers and their communities in a net-zero economy.

“[Poilievre is] counting on them being marginalized and banking on that fear. That’s what this is about. Keep workers out of this process, make them feel that they are on the margins, and then you just farm that rage,” O’Regan said.

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