Ford and Moe say Trudeau is ‘mov­ing the goal­posts’

The Globe and Mail Metro (Ontario Edition) - - FIRST MINISTERS’ MEETING - GLO­RIA GAL­LOWAY LES PERREAUX

Con­ser­va­tive premiers say PM sur­prised them by say­ing he ex­pected a min­i­mum 30-per-cent emis­sions re­duc­tion by some prov­inces

Con­ser­va­tive premiers are ac­cus­ing Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of “mov­ing the goal­posts” on the na­tional plan to re­duce car­bon emis­sions by de­mand­ing deeper cuts than pre­vi­ously set – even as some prov­inces chafe at the im­po­si­tion of a car­bon tax.

Premiers emerged from a first min­is­ters’ meet­ing on Fri­day to say there was agree­ment on some is­sues, es­pe­cially the need to re­duce bar­ri­ers to in­ter­provin­cial trade.

But On­tario Premier Doug Ford said Mr. Trudeau sur­prised the premiers by say­ing he ex­pected some prov­inces to re­duce emis­sions by more than 30 per cent over 2005 lev­els by 2030 – the tar­get adopted for the coun­try as a whole – be­cause oth­ers, no­tably Al­berta and Saskatchewan, can­not reach that goal.

On­tario says it has de­vised a plan to meet the 30-per-cent tar­get, one that is far less am­bi­tious than the goal set by the for­mer Liberal gov­ern­ment un­der Kath­leen Wynne.

“But all of a sud­den, we have a lit­tle sur­prise in the room, the goal­posts got changed,” Mr. Ford said. “Af­ter ev­ery­one signed on to 30 per cent, some will carry more wa­ter than other prov­inces. That sets un­cer­tainty within our econ­omy, within man­u­fac­tur­ing.”

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe also ac­cused the fed­eral Liberal gov­ern­ment of re­vis­ing it tar­gets. “With this dis­cus­sion to­day, that is es­sen­tially mov­ing the goal­posts,” Mr. Moe said.

But he would not elab­o­rate on how he be­lieves the fed­eral po­si­tion has changed. And Mr. Moe seemed to con­tra­dict Mr. Ford by telling re­porters that the last pan-Cana­dian agree­ment on cli­mate change said each prov­ince would con­trib­ute to emis­sions re­duc­tion to the de­gree of its own ca­pa­bil­i­ties.

The Trudeau gov­ern­ment had been count­ing on more am­bi­tious ef­forts by On­tario, Que­bec and Bri­tish Columbia to make up for slower progress in the two prairie prov­inces that rely heav­ily on oil and gas pro­duc­tion and coal-fired elec­tric­ity.

Mr. Trudeau char­ac­ter­ized the car­bon-re­duc­tion plan de­vised by On­tario’s Con­ser­va­tive gov­ern­ment as a step back­ward.

“We have an ap­proach that rec­og­nizes Canada’s tar­gets are na­tional tar­gets. [Mr. Ford] wants to play games with num­bers. But what is clear is, we are go­ing to move for­ward as we al­ways have in a very consistent way. If any­one is mov­ing goal­posts, it’s Premier Ford,” Mr. Trudeau said.

Nova Sco­tia Premier Stephen McNeil said he did not share Mr. Ford’s in­ter­pre­ta­tion of the dis­cus­sion. “Mr. Trudeau said some prov­inces would end up do­ing more than the 30-per-cent tar­get based on what is hap­pen­ing in their ju­ris­dic­tion. Some prov­inces are go­ing to achieve more than oth­ers,” he said, adding Nova Sco­tia will prob­a­bly cut emis­sions by 50 per cent by 2030.

Saskatchewan, On­tario and New Brunswick are go­ing to court to chal­lenge the con­sti­tu­tion­al­ity of Ot­tawa’s move to im­ple­ment its cli­mate-change plan by im­pos­ing a car­bon tax in ju­ris­dic­tions that don’t have their own broad­based emis­sions strat­egy.

Al­though it was pre­dicted that po­lit­i­cal di­vi­sions and dis­agree­ments over the car­bon tax would lead to tense dis­cus­sions at the first min­is­ters’ ta­ble, premiers char­ac­ter­ized the meet­ing as be­ing both am­i­ca­ble and pro­duc­tive.

But Al­berta Premier Rachel Notley said she had to get her “el­bows up” as she called for ur­gent ac­tion to mit­i­gate the com­bined ef­fects of a sharp in­crease in pro­duc­tion of crude and a short­age of pipe­line and rail ca­pac­ity to get the oil to mar­kets. Al­berta has cur­tailed its pro­duc­tion by about 325,000 bar­rels a day to ease what Ms. Notley de­scribes as a “price cri­sis” that sees the rest of the world sell its oil at about US$50 a bar­rel, while Al­berta earns just US$10. “When Al­berta’s oil is sold in Canada, the profit from it ac­tu­ally goes back to Canada,” Ms. Notley said. “So it makes sense for all of Canada to be more strate­gic around this.”

Ms. Notley said premiers from across Canada spoke about the im­por­tance of pros­per­ity in Al­berta and Saskatchewan, which is also heav­ily de­pen­dent on the oil sec­tor, to the health of the na­tional econ­omy.

Que­bec Premier François Le­gault, how­ever, re­it­er­ated his po­si­tion that op­po­si­tion to any pipe­line is too in­tense in Que­bec to even con­sider it. “I’m not at all em­bar­rassed to refuse dirty en­ergy when we have clean en­ergy,” Mr. Le­gault said.

Mr. Trudeau went into the meet­ing be­ing able to boast about a healthy econ­omy, with the re­lease of num­bers on Fri­day from Statis­tics Canada that showed Canada had gained 94,100 jobs in Novem­ber and the un­em­ploy­ment rate had fallen to 5.6 per­cent – a 40-year low.

Even Al­berta added 24,000 jobs and saw its un­em­ploy­ment rate de­cline to 6.3 per cent, which was a drop of one per­cent­age point.

Ms. Notley ac­knowl­edged that job growth: “But it is threat­ened if we don’t take charge of the sit­u­a­tion with the dis­counted price in oil.”

On in­ter­provin­cial trade, Man­i­toba’s Brian Pal­lis­ter noted the progress that has taken in place in elim­i­nat­ing bar­ri­ers and cut­ting tar­iffs over the past two years, and that pos­i­tive ef­fort con­tin­ued at Fri­day’s meet­ing. The bar­ri­ers “are an­ti­quated; there is no rea­son for them to ex­ist,” Mr. Pal­lis­ter said. “There is a com­mit­ment to work to­gether and that is crit­i­cal.”

RYAN REMIORZ/THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Canada’s premiers and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speak to the me­dia at the first min­is­ters’ closing news con­fer­ence in Mon­treal on Fri­day.

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