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People and community

Bail out workers, not Big Oil bosses

Millions of people across the country are facing dual crises: trying to stay healthy during the public health emergency of COVID-19 and trying to pay rent and keep food on the table while more and more people get laid off. These crises are exacerbated by inequality, racism, the climate crisis and governments bailing out corporations before meeting the needs of communities.

That’s why the Council of Canadians, together with social justice allies, sent this letter calling on the federal government to act now. You might recall that the federal government recently committed to a Just Transition Act. Now, we’re asking them to turn that promise into relief for communities. Our letter asks the government to put in place a just recovery program with measures to protect workers now, and to intentionally ramp down oil and gas production in the coming years. Instead of a bailout for Big Oil, the government must provide supports for workers and communities including the following measures:

  • Oil and gas workers, like all workers from all sectors, need to be able to immediately access income support in order to preserve personal and public health, including migrant and undocumented workers.
  • Stimulus money should offer immediate relief directly to workers and provide opportunities for training, education and employment in existing and emerging low-carbon sectors.
  • Money for orphan well cleanup should be administered by an independent fund with representation from Indigenous communities, local governments and landowners.

Big Oil CEOs are counting on a bailout, even though most of the corporations have available credit, while millions of people don’t. And at the same time, they are allowed to keep the energy megaproject work camps running, while everyone else is told to stay home. These misplaced priorities are putting people’s lives and livelihoods at risk.

The fossil fuel industry was crashing before COVID-19 hit globally and has laid off 53,000 workers since 2014 – despite being heavily subsidized by Canada for the last decade. Still the CEOs want more. The industry is also the primary cause of the climate crisis, which will only make pandemics like COVID-19 more common. We need to invest in a resilient, just, sustainable future, not a dying industry.

We’ve all made incredible changes and sacrifices to protect ourselves and each other. We’ve seen all levels of government take actions overnight that for decades we were told were impossible. Canadians are making huge sacrifices to support community health, it’s time government told this industry to do the same.

These recent weeks have shown that we can afford the life changing, world changing programs we need like a Green New Deal, free transit, economic support for all workers and universal pharmacare. These progressive measures are part of the solution to both the pandemic and the climate emergency. We must ensure they’re put in place for the long-term and build on them as part of the post-pandemic recovery.

Over 3.6 million people across Canada have applied for emergency benefits. A Green New Deal is exactly the massive jobs program we need right now, with a post-crisis plan to rapidly scale up work in health care, public housing, transit, education, renewable energy and other low carbon work. Your voice will make a difference.