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"Pro-worker" Conservatives massively delay sustainable jobs legislation

Conservative MP’s propose 2040 deadline for sustainable jobs plan

Summary: 

  • Conservative MPs on the Natural Resources committee have delayed movement on the Sustainable Jobs Act for months.
  • Recently these MPs introduced 20,000+ amendments, including one to extend the deadline for a sustainable jobs plan until 2040 – 17 years from now.
  • In response to this filibuster, Liberal MP Julie Dabrusin introduced a plan to bypass the Conservatives delay tactics, which has moved the bill through to the next stage, but has bypassed hearing from workers and organizations like the Council of Canadians.
  • There’s still time to change the bill and get back to a more appropriate timeline for the sustainable jobs plan – take action below!
  • Strong leadership on climate justice looks like making bold plans that match the urgency of the crisis, not delay tactics and bypassing democratic processes. We deserve better, and are organizing for better.

Six months after the Sustainable Jobs Act was introduced – the Liberals’ answer to just transition legislation – we learned this week that we won’t see the federal government’s long-awaited piece of climate job legislation until sometime in 2024.

The primary reason the bill has been stalled is filibustering tactics by the Conservative members of the natural resources committee. The lengths to which the Conservative party has gone to stymie climate action are truly staggering – and their disdain for the democratic process is truly disappointing given the multiple pressing crises in front of us.

As the House of Commons is wrapping up for the winter break, we put together a timeline of what’s been going on with the Sustainable Jobs Act, what we can expect in 2024 as we continue to push for strong Sustainable Jobs legislation, and why we need to keep pushing our MPs to stand up for workers and the climate.

A movement victory for workers, communities, and climate

When the federal government announced in early 2023 that it would table legislation around sustainable jobs, it was a testament to the dedicated organizing of thousands of people across the country. This was a promise the Liberal Party made in 2019, and it took almost four years of organizing and activism by people like you to get something on the table.

The emails you sent, petition signatures you collected, power-building you did within your communities, and the pressure you put on your MPs pushed the government to table the Sustainable Jobs Act in June 2023. The legislation was far from perfect, but we kept looking for opportunities to strengthen the Sustainable Jobs Act – and the main opportunity for amending the legislation was at the parliamentary committee stage.

Following second reading of the bill in October 2023, the Sustainable Jobs Act was referred to the Natural Resources committee for study. Then, radio silence for nearly a month.

What is going on?

In late November 2023, the NDP and Liberals revealed the reason for the delay – despite a month of meetings, the Sustainable Jobs Act hadn’t even been scheduled for study.

That’s because the Conservative MPs on the committee – Earl Dreeshen, Ted Falk, Shannon Stubbs, and Jeremy Patzer – had spent over 25 hours of committee meeting time filibustering on the most ridiculous topics imaginable, from muscle cars to childhood memories, to milkshakes.

Conservative time-wasting eliminated any opportunity for workers and other witnesses to share their expertise, and to help shape the bill to the benefit of workers and communities across Canada. This time-wasting completely undermined the whole purpose of committee and the legislative process generally and is likely a bellwether for future Conservative behaviour.

On December 1st, the NDP and Liberals agreed to put forward a special motion to force the bill through the committee stage. The committee would move into an accelerated amendment and reporting process to get the Sustainable Jobs Act to third reading and a vote as quickly as possible.

The Liberals and NDP had been working with labour and other groups behind the scenes to build amendments that responded to the needs of workers and communities – but no one was expecting the Conservative party to come up with nearly 20,000 amendments to the Sustainable Jobs Act in the span of a few days.

The ensuing committee meeting was chaos. Through eight hours of further filibustering by Conservative MPs (if you want a taste of how bad it was, check out this video), the Committee went through all amendments to the Sustainable Jobs Act, and it was presented back to the house on December 11th.

There are a few notable changes to the legislation, including an extension of the timeline for the Sustainable Jobs Action Plan from 2025 to a new date of 2040.

Conservatives trying to push climate, job action until 2040 

Yes, you read that right – amendments to the Sustainable Jobs Act were passed that extend the deadline for job and climate action by 15 years. Effectively, to move through the nearly 20,000 Conservative amendments, the committee accepted a few amendments so that the rest became moot.

We’re not sure why the committee chose the 2040 timeline, but we are sure that 2040 timeline for a Sustainable Jobs plan is completely unacceptable. We need climate action now before the climate crisis impacts communities here in Canada and across the world even more severely.

However, this isn’t the end of the road – amendments can still be rejected at the report stage in Parliament, before the bill heads to third reading and a vote. The Sustainable Jobs Act was supposed to go through the report stage December 14th, but because of further Conservative obstinance, the report phase of the process is pushed to early 2024.

What now? 

While not a perfect piece of legislation, the Sustainable Jobs Act is a start towards a just transition that was lauded by labour – it’s the first piece of legislation that takes seriously the fact that we cannot leave workers and communities behind as we transition away from fossil fuels.

It’s extremely clear that the Conservative party isn’t operating within the crushing reality of the climate crisis. If they cared about workers, committee time this fall would have been spent actually addressing the concerns of working people in this country through the legislative process.

Strong leadership on climate justice looks like making bold plans that match the urgency of the crisis, not the delay tactics and democratic bypassing we saw here.  We deserve better, and are organizing for better.

The Council of Canadians will continue to keep our eyes on this piece of legislation and post updates on its progress. In the meantime, there are a few things you can do:

  1. Email your MP and ask them to vote against the 2040 timeline when the Sustainable Jobs Act gets to the report stage in January 2024.
  1. When you’re at the holiday dinner table with your family and friends, especially those who are talking about voting Conservative in the next election, share this story with them. Actions speak louder than words – and the actions of Conservatives around this legislation very clearly illustrate they’re not here for Canadians and workers – they’re here to delay climate action and planning for a future without fossil fuels.  
Chris Kruszewski

Chris Kruszewski

Chris Kruszewski is a Climate and Social Justice Campaigner with the Council of Canadians.