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Federal government delivers $9.7 million to support Alberta jobs, hydrogen industry

EDMONTON — The federal government has delivered nearly $10 million to support Alberta's growing hydrogen industry. The federal money, expected to support 1,600 jobs, is to be augmented by another $3 million from Alberta.
The federal government has delivered nearly $10 million to support Alberta's growing hydrogen industry. The federal money, expected to support 1,600 jobs, will be augmented by another $3 million from Alberta. Chrystia Freeland tours Air Products hydrogen production plant in Edmonton, on August 25, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Amber Bracken

EDMONTON — The federal government delivered nearly $10 million Tuesday to support Alberta's growing hydrogen industry as the province continues to accuse Ottawa of wanting to shut down jobs in its energy sector. 

The federal money is expected to support 1,600 jobs by improving access to hydrogen fuels, supporting product testing, attracting investment and providing more training for Alberta workers. 

"We know that this is a growing area of the Alberta economy,” said Dan Vandal, minister in charge of Prairies Economic Development Canada, which delivered the funding.

"Alberta will always be an energy powerhouse and we're doing our best to make sure that the new technologies that are greener will help maintain and sustain good quality jobs."

The announcement came as Alberta's United Conservative Party government criticized the federal Liberals for wanting to phase out oilpatch jobs without plans to replace them. Premier Danielle Smith took to social media Tuesday to accuse the federal Liberals of trying to destroy employment in the province.

"It should concern Albertans, and frankly all Canadians, that (Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's) 'Just Transition' plan will eliminate 2.7 million jobs — according to a Liberal memo," she wrote on Twitter Tuesday. 

Not so, said Vandal.

"I'm not sure what to make of that," he said. 

"Our aim is to create good sustainable jobs for Albertans. Nobody is looking to do anything but that."

The figure Smith quoted, according to the ministerial briefing note from which it is drawn, is the sum total of all jobs in all sectors expected to be affected as a low-carbon economy takes shape. Smith has previously said what is now being called a "sustainable jobs" plan would cost more than 180,000 Albertans their jobs, which is more than the province's entire oil and gas workforce. 

The federal announcement, along with $3 million from the province, will be used to promote Edmonton as a hydrogen hub and draw foreign investment. The money is to also create a database of businesses ready to move into the hydrogen supply chain.

It will also increase the availability of hydrogen fuel for heavy vehicles and improve testing for hydrogen fuel infrastructure. 

The 1,600 jobs the money is to support will be mostly in Edmonton, the site of the province's hydrogen centre of excellence and of more than two dozen hydrogen and hydrogen-related projects in development. Edmonton Global, one of the agencies receiving Tuesday's funding, says it has supported 28 final investment decisions into the Edmonton region representing more than $2.4 billion in investment and the creation of more than 3,500 jobs since 2018.

Alberta's share of the funding came from the ministries of Technology and Innovation and Environment and Protected Areas. Neither minister was made available to comment. 

In a release, Service Alberta Minister Dale Nally said: "As the largest hydrogen producer in Canada, we are ready to do our part to help meet demand within Canada and around the world.”

Alberta Environment Minister Sonya Savage appeared on a CBC call-in show Tuesday to talk about the coming changes facing the province's economy. She suggested the federal-provincial conflict is not as intense as social media might suggest.

"Behind the scenes, we're actually working pretty well on some areas like hydrogen and (carbon capture, utilization and storage)," she said. 

Savage said the provincial government recognizes the industry is changing and is trying to adapt in its own way.

"We're not doing it as part of a 'Just Transition' to start shutting down the oil and gas sector. The Liberals seem to be sending mixed messages out."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 17, 2023. 

Bob Weber, The Canadian Press