Former PC cabinet minister Robin Campbell was in favour of coal phaseout before becoming president of the Coal Association of Canada
From an August 2014 story in the Hinton Parklander come some illuminating quotes from former Premier Jim Prentice and Robin Campbell (pictured right), the former Progressive Conservative cabinet minister turned president of the Coal Association of Canada.
“We need to focus on greening up our infrastructure to the extent that we can. Principally that will involve the phasing out of coal-burning thermal electricity plants in Alberta, most of which are reaching the end of their useful life,” said Jim Prentice.
He went on to add that he doesn’t believe in public subsidization of essential energy infrastructure, and that any green energy innovation would have to make “market sense,” but that he does believe in a green energy future for Alberta.
MLA for Hinton, Robin Campbell, came out in full support of Prentice as party leader.
“I think it’s very important that as we move forward as a party, as we move forward as a government and as we move forward as a province we need somebody that shows true leadership,” Campbell said.
We think Prentice makes an excellent point on phasing out coal burning thermal electricity plants in Alberta and it appears that Robin Campbell does as well. It's the simplest and most effective thing Alberta can do to simultaneously lower health costs and lower our greenhouse gas emissions.
Unfortunately Robin Campbell did not respond to requests for comment to clarify his position.
The original Hinton Parklander story comes from Jim Prentice's campaign to become leader of the PC party. After Jim Prentice won the leadership of the party he installed Robin Campbell as the minister of finance, a high profile cabinet position.
After Prentice and the PC party lost the 2015 election Campbell found a new job. The Coal Association of Canada hired him as their president despite the fact that he couldn't directly lobby the government at the time because of conflict of interest laws.
Recently Campbell and the Coal Association of Canada have been touring rural Alberta and the communities directly affected by the Alberta government's plan to phase out coal. The former finance minister has been pretty loose with the facts in order to sway the people and communities he's been speaking with. He's said things like this.
“I look at the air quality in Alberta and there's no cleaner air anywhere. So to blame it on the coal industry is just a fallacy.”
Alberta has serious air quality concerns. Five of Alberta’s 11 listed municipalities are among Canada’s worst 25 — of 131 total municipalities in Canada — for annual mean concentration of fine particulate matter, one of the most pervasively harmful air contaminants. Edmonton and Calgary are in the worst 15, while Red Deer topped the list. Toronto came in at 36, also better than Fort Saskatchewan and Drayton Valley. This is perhaps a surprise until we recall that Toronto’s air quality has improved in the years since closing its coal plants while Edmonton’s has worsened.
Environment Canada estimates have shown poor air quality — including from coal plants in Alberta — is responsible for sending people to emergency rooms, keeping children indoors and even premature death. Late last year, the province acknowledged the Red Deer region is failing to meet a federal standard for air quality while four other regions of the province are approaching limits.
But regardless of what Campbell says and does on his tour of affected communities there is a need for the government to act. We need a high quality employment and investment strategy that supports workers, families and communities affected by the clean energy transition.
These communities helped build Alberta into what it is today and we need to support them. Thankfully these communities have one big advantage over the rest of Alberta when it comes to investment in big renewable energy and natural gas generation projects: They have a ton of transmission capacity and lots of brownfield land.
Look to the Nanticoke coal complex in Ontario for why this is an advantage. This was a massive coal fired electricity generation site that was decommissioned as Ontario phased out coal. Now Ontario Power Generation is in the midst of getting approval for a 50 megawatt solar farm on the old Nanticoke site.
Phasing out coal is the right thing to do. And a just transition for communities affected by the coal phaseout needs to be a part of it.