Posted on May 30, 2017

Questions to the Minister of Economic Development regarding Coal-fired Electric Power Plant Retirement

On May 30, 2017, I had the opportunity to ask questions regarding transitions for workers and their families as Coal-fired Electric Power Plants are retired.

Ms Babcock: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Having grown up in an oil and gas family, I understand the concerns of boom-and-bust cycles. Many of my constituents in Stony Plain have built their livelihood around coal plants, and it is understandable that they are very worried about transitioning off coal-powered electricity. To the minister of economic development: how is the government creating stability for families such as my constituents to support them through this transition?

The Speaker: The hon. Minister of Economic Development and Trade.

Mr. Bilous: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. I want to start off by thanking the member for being a tireless advocate for her constituency. First of all, coal communities have helped make our province a prosperous and industrious place, where many people have come to build good lives for themselves and their families. Canada is one of the many countries that are moving away from coal-fired electricity. During my visits to these communities and in a town hall the Minister of Municipal Affairs hosted earlier this month on my behalf, we had an opportunity to talk to a lot of the community members, workers, and municipal leaders about what this is doing and looking at opportunities for economic growth and development in the future.

The Speaker: Thank you, hon. minister.

It seems that today there are small, little details that I just need to reinforce. I want to remind the members of a reminder that I gave them – and today will be the third time – that the use of electronic equipment, putting earplugs in, except for communicating, is not acceptable.

The first supplemental.

Ms Babcock: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Given that this issue crosses jurisdictions and that the federal, provincial, and local governments all need to sit at the table as partners to build an end result that works for all, to the same minister: what is this government doing to make sure we have a plan and a process that work for Albertans?

The Speaker: I want to just clarify the point I made. I’m not referring to the earplugs that are provided with the Chamber. It’s other electronic material. [interjections] Hon. members. [interjections] Hon. members, are we ready to continue?

The hon. minister.

Mr. Bilous: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I think it’s important to clarify that back in 2012 the opposition leader along with his Ottawa BFF, Jason Kenney, were part of a federal government that passed regulations to close Alberta coal plants and prevent them from converting to natural gas. They were turning out the lights and their backs on Albertans and Alberta communities. Our government has been working respectfully and collaboratively with the federal government to allow coal plants to convert to natural gas producing facilities here in Alberta. The Minister of Environment and Parks has been working diligently to get this done, and we did. We are working with the communities to ensure that they can . . .

The Speaker: Thank you, hon. minister.

Second supplemental.

Ms Babcock: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. To the same minister: what is being done to ensure that the impacted companies aren’t leaving the Alberta energy market?

The Speaker: The hon. minister.

Mr. Bilous: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and I’ll thank the member for the question. Our government has reached agreements with TransAlta, Capital Power, and ATCO in order to ensure that they’re going to fulfill their obligations, first and foremost to workers, including severance pay and pensions. They’re going to keep their head offices here in Alberta, and they’re going to continue to generate power for Alberta’s electricity grid. At the same time, we are moving toward a capacity market that will help maintain reliability in our electricity system as we transition off coal and at the same time ensure that electricity remains reasonable as far as pricing and that we’ll continue to be competitive in our province.

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