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SDG 8: Decent work and economic growth

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The environmental perspective

This chapter's focus on encouraging inclusive and sustainable economic growth in Canada directly supports SDG Global Indicator Framework Target 8.3: Promote development-oriented policies that support productive activities, decent job creation, entrepreneurship, creativity and innovation, and encourage the formalization and growth of micro-, small- and medium-sized enterprises, including through access to financial services.

Canada's environmental and clean technology sector accounts for 3% of gross domestic product (GDP) and nearly 2% of jobs in Canada. It includes diverse occupations in sub-industries such as clean electricity, solar panel research, nature conservation, and waste management. Jobs in this sector are well-paid, with annual salaries about 33% higher than the average Canadian wage. At 3.5% GDP growth, Canada's clean technology sector grew twice as fast as the overall economy from 2018 to 2019. Canada ranked first in the G20 for clean technology innovation in the most recent Global Cleantech Innovation Index (2017), and fourth overall, while 11 Canadian companies are highlighted on the 2021 Global Cleantech Top 100 List.

Compared to other sectors, small and medium-sized enterprises in the clean technology sector are more likely to apply and be accepted for financing opportunities and export beyond their province and internationally. Meanwhile, occupations in nature conservation span many industries, signalling growth; however, retention strategies remain a priority to maintain this growth.

There is opportunity across all sectors for businesses to increase their competitiveness and become more sustainable. To transform the economy, Canada will need to decarbonize and reduce the environmental impacts of existing sectors while growing and supporting clean technology and emerging sector jobs.

To succeed in the new clean economy, Canada will also need to respond to evolving workforce needs by upskilling and reskilling workers, increasing workforce participation, and diversifying local economies. If governments, industry, and labour fail to plan ahead for the changing skills and occupational requirements needed for the clean economy, they risk running into skills gaps and labor shortages. This will stall progress on both economic growth and climate change mitigation.

At the same time, the transition toward clean energy sources and clean technology poses risks of disruption, especially for workers with fewer marketable skills. The shift to a clean economy needs to be pursued in a just and inclusive manner, so that no one is left behind. This requires collaboration among governments, industry and organized labor to provide affected workers and communities with new opportunities for training, skills development and well-paid employment.

Where the Government of Canada is going

Mandate letters released in December 2021 outline the Government of Canada's direction and policy priorities. Selected commitments related to Sustainable Development Goal 8 are listed below.

  • To support the future and livelihood of workers and their communities in the transition to a net-zero economy:
    • Move forward with legislation and comprehensive action to achieve a Just Transition. This work will be guided by consultations with workers, unions, Indigenous peoples, employers, communities, and provinces and territories (Minister of Natural Resources; Minister of Labour; supported by the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion);
    • Launch a Clean Jobs Training Centre to help workers across sectors upgrade or gain new skills so as to be on the leading edge of the zero carbon industry (Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion);
    • Redesign and implement the Canada Training Benefit (Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion);
    • Address gaps in training and upskilling to ensure that all Canadian workers can take advantage of sustainable battery industry opportunities (Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion);
    • Continue to deliver on investments to train workers and create opportunities for green jobs (Minister of Natural Resources); and
    • Increase inclusion in the clean energy workforce by creating more opportunities for women, LGBTQ2 and other under-represented people in the energy sector (Minister of Natural Resources).
  • To ensure that Canada is a world leader in clean technology:
    • Build on existing advisory services to guide emerging clean technology firms from formation to export (Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry);
    • Help to drive the development of Canadian clean technology companies and small and medium-sized enterprises working in the area of decarbonization (Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry; supported by the Minister of International Trade, Export Promotion, Small Business and Economic Development);
    • Support procurement of Canadian clean technology (Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry; Minister of Public Services and Procurement); and
    • Partner with post-secondary institutions and Indigenous organizations to accelerate the creation and growth of Indigenous clean technology businesses (Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry).

How the Government of Canada contributes

The Government of Canada is taking action to promote decent work and well-paid jobs by growing the clean technology sector, promoting skills development and training, and diversifying local economies. The government is committed to sustainability across the economy, including a just transition for workers and communities impacted by the shift away from fossil fuels, so that the benefits of a clean economy can be enjoyed by all Canadians.

In addition to advancing these priorities domestically, the federal government promotes decent work and just transitions through participation in multilateral institutions such as the Group of Seven (G7), the Group of Twenty (G20), and intergovernmental organizations such as the International Labor Organization.

The Innovation and Skills Plan helps support workers and businesses in the clean technology market. It has 3 main pillars: equipping workers with the tools, skills and experience they need to succeed; fostering a nation of innovators through financial assistance and improved innovation programs; and promoting key sectors in Canada's innovation economy such as clean technology, digital industries and agri-food. It also encourages investment in research and supports businesses capitalizing on Canadian inventions.

Just Transition

At COP26, Canada was a signatory to the Declaration Supporting the Conditions for a Just Transition Internationally - Green growth, decent work, and economic prosperity in the transition to net zero. That includes the following commitment:

“Support and promote social dialogue and stakeholder engagement: We recognise that the development of effective, nationally coherent, locally driven and delivered just transition plans within countries are dependent on effective and inclusive social dialogue. We intend to support and promote social dialogue between governments and the representative organisations of workers and employers, including those in secondary industries that are dependent on carbon-intensive industries as well as other stakeholders, in accordance with inter alia the relevant fundamental rights at work. We also recognise that other key stakeholders need to be engaged to ensure no one is left behind. This support may include strengthening social dialogue through capacity building of the participants.”

Also, in support of Just Transition, in 2018 the government established the Task Force on Just Transition for Canadian Coal Power Workers and Communities. Its mandate was to engage relevant stakeholder groups including labour, provinces and municipal governments, report what was heard and provide recommendations on how the government can support coal power workers and communities. Drawing from meetings and site visits with affected communities, organized labour, industry, and other stakeholders, the task force released its final report in March 2019.

In response, the government committed $185 million to support affected communities, including $35 million for the Canada Coal Transition Initiative focused on skills development and economic diversification, as well as $150 million for a dedicated infrastructure fund.

As of December 2021, about $52 million had been invested in 53 projects across New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Saskatchewan and Alberta.

In July 2021, Canada also launched public consultations to develop just transition legislation that could inform government decision making on climate action and establish an advisory body to advise the government on regional and sectoral strategies. Natural Resources Canada is consulting with a broad range of stakeholders including workers and labour organizations, industry, academia, non-governmental organizations, youth, and experts in skills, training, and diversity and inclusion. These virtual consultations are in addition to meetings with provinces, territories and Indigenous organizations.

The Clean Growth Hub is a whole-of-government focal point for clean technology focused on supporting companies and projects, coordinating programs and tracking results. It helps clean technology developers and adopters identify the federal programs and services most relevant to their needs, simplifying access to government programs and reducing duplication of effort. Services are available to firms of all sizes in the clean technology space and across all sectors of the economy.

The Sectoral Workforce Solutions Program will support key sectors, including those linked to the clean economy. The program funds sectoral projects that focus on a range of industry-driven activities such as training and reskilling workers and helping employers retain and attract a skilled and diverse workforce. This will help connect Canadians with the training they need to access good jobs in sectors where employers are looking for skilled workers. It will also place priority on supporting equity-deserving groups and promoting a diverse and inclusive workforce.

The Community Workforce Development Program was announced in Budget 2021. It provides $55 million over 3 years, starting in 2021 to 2022, to help communities recover and improve resiliency through workforce planning and skills training. It will test innovative community-based approaches that aim to address regional and national priorities such as decarbonization. It will also help to strengthen local economic diversification efforts with a focus on addressing the needs of underrepresented groups.

In November 2020, the Future Skills Council, an advisory body to the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion, released a report entitled Canada - A Learning Nation. The report identified skills development for sustainable futures as a priority area for action. Informed by priorities identified by the council, the Future Skills Centre is working to identify effective practices to support employers and workers in assessing and developing skills to support a greener economy.

The Skills for Success Program will provide training to 90,000 Canadians by 2024 and help them get back to work. Part of the Government of Canada's commitment to create 500,000 new training and work opportunities, the program centres on providing training, tools and resources to help Canadians adapt and thrive in learning, work and life. In particular, it will help vulnerable populations with skill challenges, such as persons with disabilities, Indigenous peoples and racialized Canadians, and will support the ability of workers to transition to jobs in the green economy.

Finally, Canada's 7 regional development agencies contribute to the transition to the green economy and sustainable jobs by supporting clean technology development and adoption, as well as the green transformation and adoption of small and medium-sized enterprises.

Strengthening Canada's climate tech

“Climate tech,” a subset of clean technology, includes a broad range of innovative technology-based solutions to decarbonize the economy and improve society's adaptation and resilience to climate change. This includes transitioning the energy supply to renewable sources; moving toward zero-emission transportation; reducing the impact of buildings and infrastructure; cultivating sustainable agriculture, forestry and land use; and decarbonizing industrial processes. The Government of Canada is committed to working with the private sector, provinces and territories to position Canada as a global leader in climate tech innovation through funding for climate tech start-ups, strengthening regulatory action, increasing clean tech deployment, and transforming public procurement to achieve positive social and environmental outcomes.

Green jobs in Indigenous and northern communities

The percentage of jobs attributed to the environmental and clean technology products sector in Nunavut and the Northwest Territories (0.5% and 1% respectively) falls below the Canada-wide average of 2%. As the Government of Canada continues to support research and development into clean technologies and nature based solutions, it will be important to ensure the benefits reach across Canada.

The Government of Canada is helping Indigenous and northern communities access green job opportunities through the Indigenous Skills and Employment Training (ISET) Program and the Skills and Partnership Fund (SPF). The ISET Program is a distinctions-based program designed to help Indigenous people improve their skills and find employment. It provides funding to Indigenous service delivery organizations to build and improve their capacity and deliver culturally-appropriate job training services to First Nations, Inuit, Métis and urban/non affiliated Indigenous people in their communities. The SPF is a project-based program that supports government priorities through strategic partnerships with Indigenous groups and industry employers. It provides Indigenous peoples with demand-driven skills training for economic opportunities, including in the environmental sector, at the local, regional and national levels.

In addition, the Strategic Partnerships Initiative provides a way for federal partners to coordinate their efforts, reduce administrative burden and pool resources in support of Indigenous communities. It fills gaps in other funding programs that might create a barrier to Indigenous involvement in economic opportunities. As an example, an investment in the Rat River Development Corporation will support a feasibility study to look at adding a biomass boiler to the community's existing heating system.

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2022-2026 FSDS

Draft Federal Sustainable Development Strategy 2022-2026