Last week the feds tabled Bill C-50, the Canadian Sustainable Jobs Act, in the House of Commons. The bill would create a Sustainable Jobs Partnership Council to advise the government on clean energy jobs, require that Ottawa come up with a sustainable jobs plan every five years, and establish a Sustainable Jobs Secretariat. The latter would oversee the government’s work on building a clean energy sector.
Although the bill focuses on transitioning to a clean energy future, it is long overdue as a general policy in this rapidly changing age. Globalization and technological advances have overwhelmed many working people. Millions of well-paid unionized manufacturing jobs have been lost, replaced by inferior and unreliable service sector jobs—the infamous precariat. Many citizens have felt abandoned, no longer having a place in their own society.
One of the major results has been political alienation from a system that workers see as no longer listening to them. In Europe, a number of countries are showing the results. In Germany, the far-right Alternative for Germany is surging. In France, Marine Le Pen and her National Rally party continue to improve their fortunes. Italy’s prime minister, Giorgia Meloni, leads the far-right Brothers of Italy party. In eastern Europe, Poland is ruled by a far-right party and Hungary by a far-right autocrat.
Perhaps the best example are Britain’s vote for Brexit and in the U.S. the election of Donald Trump.
The degree of alienation is beginning to threaten democracy itself. We simply can’t afford to continue to run the risk it presents. The Sustainable Jobs Act represents one important way the risk can be alleviated.
The Act will force the government to monitor how the energy transition affects workers and communities and assist them in adapting. The Sustainable Jobs Partnership Council would be composed of labour, industry and Indigenous representatives. Including the voices of workers is critically important.
The legislation is supported by the NDP and organized labour. Canadian Labour Congress President Bea Bruske states approvingly that the legislation “signals a crucial milestone in our fight against climate change and the protection of workers’ interests.”
According to the Pembina Institute, the Act “provides a framework for government, employers and workers to come together to inform policy and investment decisions that seize on opportunities to create economic growth and high-quality jobs.”
We need such a framework for more than the energy sector. Sensibly the concept should be extended from energy to the economy generally. Artificial intelligence alone is threatening changes to work well beyond anything we have ever seen. Precluding the alienation that will result is becoming increasingly challenging and increasingly necessary. The Sustainable Jobs Act is a good start.