After facing hurdles, Liberals look to meet increased youth green jobs promise

Wind turbine
Wind turbine

The federal government will find a way to create 15,000 green jobs over three years, even after falling well short of a smaller goal last year, Canada’s labour minister says.

Labour Minister Patty Hajdu says it took the government “a little bit of time to co-ordinate ourselves,” after promising during the 2015 election campaign to create 5,000 so-called “green jobs.”

But Hajdu said eight federal agencies involved in the push should meet the jobs goal now that they have a better relationship with private employers in the field.

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“The more we get to know stakeholders and the better our relationships become, which this government is quite clear that we do – we work in partnership with stakeholders – the more opportunities there are,” Hajdu said in an interview.

“I feel very comfortable with that number (15,000) still. I think we’ll be able to reach that target.”

Last summer, Parks Canada employed 1,636 students, an increase of 435 over students employed during summer 2015 – but only one-third of the total the Liberals promised. Overall, across multiple departments, there were expected to be more than 2,000 green jobs, but the final tally from 2016 won’t be known until this fall.

Internal government documents about the proposal show just how complicated fulfilling the original promise has been for civil servants.

Days after the Liberals were sworn in as government, officials from nine federal departments met on the third floor of a government building in Gatineau to talk youth jobs, including the green jobs pledge.

The minutes from the meeting show that Parks Canada raised concerns about the 5,000 jobs commitment, specifically that there was no mention of it in Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s mandate letter to Environment Minister Catherine McKenna.

The agency also raised concerns about the costs associated with ramping up its summer work program. At best, it could create another 100 summer jobs, but would need more cash to make it happen because of “significant accommodation and supervision” costs.

McKenna’s department, Environment Canada, had other questions: Did the jobs need to be permanent, or temporary? Could they send students up North as support staff for researchers?

In the end, Employment and Social Development Canada suggested all departments involved in the effort try to find the jobs in existing programs “given ambitious implementation timelines” and to keep operating costs from skyrocketing.

Officials eventually decided to define “green jobs” as any at companies “linked to a greener economy” and that required special skills to produce environmental benefits.

“This definition is quite inclusive, as it considers all jobs in green companies and all green jobs in all sectors,” reads a proposal dated Nov. 30, 2015.

The Canadian Press obtained copies of the documents under the Access to Information Act.

This year, the government announced that it planned to create 15,000 green jobs across eight departments: ESDC, Parks Canada, Environment Canada, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Innovation Canada, Natural Resources Canada, Canadian Heritage and the National Research Council.

A spokeswoman for ESDC said that green jobs are being defined as those with employers that help reduce the consumption of energy and raw materials, limit greenhouse gas emissions, minimize waste and pollution, and protect and restore ecosystems.

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