ESTEVAN - The head of the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) was in Estevan on July 13 to learn more about labour issues facing the area.
Bea Bruske toured the carbon capture and storage facility at SaskPower’s Boundary Dam Power Station.
She agreed to come here after meeting with Jody Dukart, the international auditor-teller with the United Mine Workers of America Local 7606, and John Donohoe from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 2067. The meeting came last summer while Bruske was in Regina to meet with the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour.
Dukart had expressed concerns he has regarding his members and jobs in Estevan.
“I … indicated that I wanted to really come and understand the region and see the plant and understand the carbon capture process,” she said. “It’s been a year in the making in terms of trying to get this happening, and so I’m glad I was able to see it.”
She marvelled at the CCS facility, which is the first of its kind in the world. And she noted the initial challenges associated with the plant’s operations have been met.
“Just like anything else, when you build something, there’s always going to be adjustments that have to be made after the fact,” she said. “I thought it was incredibly interesting to see it and I really appreciated that opportunity.”
Prior to arriving at Boundary Dam, she stopped at the memorial in the Bienfait cemetery that recognizes the three striking coal miners who died during the Estevan Riot of 1931.
Bruske said she doesn’t want her time in Estevan to be a one-off, so her office, along with those from IBEW and UMWA, will continue to advocate for the Estevan area.
“We will be making sure that we speak to the ministers about the issues and the challenges that we see,” she said.
She would welcome the opportunity to return to Estevan.
She also encouraged workers to take advantage of educational opportunities that are available at the coal transition centre, located in the Southeast College’s Estevan campus.
“Even if you are fully working right now, getting additional education and training are always a good thing. It’s always good to add to your resume,” she said.
This marked the first time Bruske has been in the Energy City since taking on the president’s role with the CLC a year ago. She believes the last time the head of the CLC would have been here was in 2018, during meetings to discuss the federal government’s Just Transition for Canadian Coal Power Workers.
Bruske hopes the members of UMWA Local 7606 and IBEW Local 2067 are working hard to meet the challenges that are coming, to ensure that government is focused on transition issues and to ensure there are good jobs continuing in the region.
It’s also important for transition funding to continue so that it can be accessed by employees.
They will also have to connect with provincial and municipal governments.
“I do think that all three levels of government have an onus to pay attention to the community, and to make sure that as transitions happen and as we move away from coal, that we have solutions for the community and for workers and their families in those communities.”
She said there’s no expectation the other coal-fired units in the Estevan area will be converted to CCS technology, for a variety of reasons.