Government task force hosting town hall in Coronach to discuss ditching coal

The Government of Canada has pledged to phase out coal-fired electricity by 2030, putting the future of communities with economies that rely on it in question.

Community members doubt town will survive transition

The federal government wants to get rid of coal by 2030. A task force is going to communities which rely on the resource to take advice on the transition. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

The Government of Canada has pledged to phase out coal-fired electricity by 2030, putting the future of communities with economies that rely on coal in question. 

Our priorities are a little mixed up when we're deciding to choose environmental issues over employment for families and communities.- Clint Clysdale, employee at Coronach mine

People in Coronach, Sask. are uncertain of what the future may bring. It is home to Westmoreland's Poplar River coal mine and the Poplar River Generating Station, the second worst polluter in Saskatchewan, next to the Boundary Dam.

A federal government task force will be in town Wednesday night to address some of the community's concerns regarding a transition to a low-carbon economy.

Clint Clysdale, an employee at the mine, said Coronach would be a casualty of a low-carbon plan. 

"I think our priorities are a little mixed up when we're deciding to choose environmental issues over employment for families and communities," he said on CBC Radio's The Afternoon Edition on Tuesday.

"Our communities need employment. Our families need their jobs. We need to keep these communities alive and moving and not close them down and cancel industry in this country."

Task force goals

The town hall will allow the task force to gather information on how it will impact workers and the entire community.

It will take suggestions on possible new economic opportunities, ways to use existing infrastructure and funds and employment and training supports. It will also address concerns about gaps in policy and programs to support the transition.

Coronach resident Kelly Elder said the community of just over 700 people would have little to no job opportunities without coal. 

"Seventy per cent of people on my street work either at the mine or at the plant, so to even fathom 70 per cent of people leaving our town, we'd have 100 people left," she said.

"I certainly would hope something will come of making our coal plant more efficient and causing less pollution but if you look around my skies, there's not too much pollution here."

Elder said she is near retirement, but would leave the community to follow her children and grandchildren. One of her sons sells tires and the other works at the mine. Both, she said depend on the coal economy.  

The task force is visiting communities in Saskatchewan, Alberta, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia and will report back to the federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Catherine McKenna, by the end of the year.

They will provide recommendations for a transition plan that will minimize impact on coal-centred communities, with a focus on skills, training and other necessities.

The meeting will be held at the Coronach Town Hall at 6:30 p.m. Coronach is a little more than 200 kilometres southwest of Regina.

With files from CBC Radio's Afternoon Edition

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