Prime Minister Trudeau and Hon. Catherine McKenna are set to meet with Canada’s premier’s on March 3rd to discuss a national climate strategy. The Liberal government has announced a goal of setting a national minimum price on carbon – at least $15 dollars a tonne. All provinces would be expected to meet the minimum and could, of course, exceed that minimum. Some provinces, like Quebec and BC, are already doing a lot to reduce GHG emissions in Canada (see chapter 8).
The premier of Saskatchewan, Brad Wall, has already announced that he rejects the national plan. For him, any price on carbon is a tax and a new tax is not part of his re-election campaign. Yes, there is an election in SK in April. This is bad political timing for Trudeau. Brad Wall can dig his heels in here and stand up to big government as a campaign ploy. This isn’t about climate change. This is about an election. And that is too bad.
A national climate strategy makes sense. The federal government cannot regulate GHG emissions or create natural resource policy. The Constitution gives those powers to the provinces. But the federal government can lead – and demonstrate leadership. Setting a national target and helping provinces meet that target is well within the purview of the federal government’s ability, jurisdiction, and, arguably, obligation.
Moreover, streamlining policy is better for the economy across the board. It means that provinces will not compete against each other for industry. For example, when BC implemented its carbon tax in 2008 the price of cement went through the roof. The result? Companies in BC bought cement produced outside BC because it was chapter. Good news for Alberta cement. If every province has at least some price on carbon, then it will even out the “burden” placed on producers and industry. Cement will cost more in every province so it will still be cheapest to buy it locally and not transport it as far (thereby reducing emissions).
Lastly, a national strategy is also important for our Paris Pledge and our international reputation. Canada – as a whole – will be actively addressing climate change for the first time in our nation’s history. What better way to celebrate our 150th birthday?
Brad Wall’s rejection of a national strategy is disappointing to say the least. Sure, SK is a small province representing only 3% of the country’s population. But here is the bigger story on SK:
The province is a HUGE emitter of GHG emissions. On a per capita basis the province is second only to Alberta (who does have a carbon price already). Saskatchewan does need to bring down emissions. Wall is only interested in climate policy that involves off-setting. Essentially, he wants SK to keep emitting GHG emissions and then “off set” those emissions through carbon sequestering (see Chapter 8). SK will store its carbon in the ground and let future generations worry about that problem.