Wendy Berry says people will drive a couple of hours from Red Deer, Alta., for the made-from-scratch pizza that she serves up at her restaurant in the hamlet of Tomahawk, but that’s not enough to keep her going these days.
She is worried sick about paying the mortgage and having enough left over to feed her family now that the shuttering of Canada’s coal industry put an end to the catering side of her business.
It was supposed to be a “just transition” — that buzzy phrase that was on the tips of everyone’s tongues at the global climate talks in Madrid this winter, and that made it into the federal Liberal election platform as a commitment to help fossil-fuel workers who are regulated out of a job as the government pushes us towards a low-carbon economy.
But when Berry hears that expression, she fires back with some tough questions that have no satisfactory answers. “What exactly is a just transition?” she asks. “Do we have something else in place for when we shut down our fossil fuels?”
Berry and the rest of her community are a lesson in real time for the federal government as it contemplates how to push Canada to become a low-carbon economy. Coal mining and coal-fired electricity in Alberta, Saskatchewan, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia are being phased out or radically altered to meet the country’s climate-change goals.