Bridging the Gap

Read the Bridging the Gap report (pdf)

Bridging the Gap is the first phase of our Future of Coal in Saskatchewan research project. Begun in October 2017, this phase included trips to the coal-producing communities of Estevan and Coronach in April 2018 and March 2019. On this page you can find outcomes from this research, including a report based on interviews with community members.

While for years we have advocated for a rapid transition to renewable energy across the province, which must include a phase-out of coal-fired electricity, we recognize that such a transition has significant social implications for many people and communities in Saskatchewan. Indeed, at the outset of this project we realized that over time we’ve spent a lot of time talking about coal workers and about coal-producing communities, but that we had never taken the time to talk with coal workers or with folks in coal-producing communities. As such, we set out to Estevan and Coronach in the south of the province and held in-depth conversations and workshops with coal and service industry workers, union representatives, town administrators, and farmers, asking them questions about their perspectives on the future of coal and energy in the province, the challenges and opportunities facing their communities, climate change, and more.

We made our first trip down south in April of 2018, when we held 17 interviews with community members. We released our first research report in November 2018, based on these interviews. It’s called Bridging the Gap: building bridges between urban environmental groups and coal-producing communities in Saskatchewan. You can read the report in full here (pdf). The report provides background information on this issue in Saskatchewan; relays what we heard from participants in each community; compares and contrasts those perspectives with our own; and offers suggestions as to next steps for us and for decision-makers. Fundamentally, this research was approached as a relationship-building exercise, and we are grateful for the engagement of our participants. You can also read our op-ed in the National Observer here, summarizing some of the key lessons we learned.

The report authors – Rachel, Hayley & Justin – sat down for a conversation exploring some of the results, along with their assumptions going into the project and how what they’ve learned has started to re-shape how they view this challenge and the future of energy in the province. You can listen to that conversation here:

In March 2019 we returned to Estevan and Coronach, meeting with past participants and other community members and hosting workshops around a few key themes that came through in our earlier conversations. We also had the opportunity to tour Boundary Dam power station in Estevan and take a swing through the Poplar River mine near Coronach. You can read about this trip and the workshops by clicking on this Twitter thread:


Infographics representing key themes from Bridging the Gap. See full size here.

In June Rachel, Hayley, and Justin again sat down and shared their experiences from the return trip on an episode of From the Ground Up, CJS’ weekly radio show. You can listen here:

One of our team members, Rachel, also contributed an article to Briarpatch Magazine’s special Just Transition issue. You can read the article, “Bridging the gap with Saskatchewan’s coal communites,” here. It explores our work from a community organizing perspective and in the hopes of contributing to wider just transition conversations.


A coal hauler at the Poplar River Mine near Coronach. Photo credit: Rachel Malena-Chan

Also in March 2019, the federally-appointed Just Transition Task Force, which visited coal-producing communities in Alberta, Saskatchewan, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia during 2018, including trips to Estevan and Coronach in June of that year, publicly released their final reports. These include recommendations on how the federal government can support those communities through the transition. You can find them here. We are not surprised that the Task Force picked up on many of the same themes as we did through our interviews with folks in Estevan & Coronach. These government reports reinforce the uncertainty hanging over coal-producing communities and the need for immediate and inclusive planning.

During the course of our work, a number of questions continually came up relating to the challenges of the transition we’re advocating for, as well as about potential solutions. We’ve recorded a series of short videos with Mark, one of our team members, to try and address some of these questions. We acknowledge that we’re still learning and working through these problems, but we want to offer our perspectives when we can in the spirit of continuing to work towards constructive dialogue and solutions. These videos also offer a bit of a preview to Mark’s work; he’s preparing a report that will address the more technical aspects of a transition to renewable energy.

The first video discusses why a phase-out of coal matters in Saskatchewan, and why the province matters in conversations about addressing climate change:

The second video discusses how we can supply energy without coal, and the challenges of renewable energy.

The next video previews Mark’s work on the Future of Coal in Saskatchewan project:

This video explores a bit more about the Saskatchewan context, and how it compares to other jurisdictions:

The following video addresses questions about carbon capture & storage (CCS) technology, which Saskatchewan has played a key role in innovating:

The final video explores what this transition could mean for people across the province:

You can also listen to the following podcast, an episode of our weekly show From the Ground Up, to hear more of the conversation with Mark on the above topics:

We’ll continue to add to this page as we develop more resources, so please check back for updates. You can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter to keep up to date!

We would like to thank the Council of Canadians, the Pembina Institute, Eco-Friendly Sask, and the Corporate Mapping Project for supporting this work.

Thanks to CFCR 90.5FM for their recording space and for hosting our weekly show, From the Ground Up. Thanks also to Rachel Malena-Chan for the audio recordings and to Wing Go Chan for videography.

Finally, thanks also to SaskForward for the opportunity to present our research at the Just Transitions Summit in Regina in October 2018.

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