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Canadian Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna disagrees with comments by Conservative Party members that the victory of Ontario premier-designate Doug Ford represented a “verdict” against making polluters pay for carbon emissions.
“No,” came the blunt response from McKenna, when asked to comment on whether she agreed with remarks made earlier by ecstatic federal Conservatives who were celebrating the results of the June 7 Ontario election as a rebuke of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's climate change policies.
“We’ve been clear to Canadians, and the world has been clear, that we need to take serious action to tackle climate change."
McKenna made the comments while speaking to reporters in Quebec City, gathered for the first day of the two-day G7 summit of advanced industrialized nations, hosted by Trudeau in La Malbaie, northeast of the Quebec capital.
"It is one of the greatest challenges we face," McKenna said about climate change. "At the same time, we need to grow our economy and create good jobs, and that is exactly what we’ve been doing.”
Ford, leader of the Progressive Conservative party, campaigned hard against what he called a “carbon tax,” which doesn’t exist in Ontario. The province has a cap and trade system of carbon pricing set up by the outgoing Liberal government of Premier Kathleen Wynne, who also linked its carbon market to Quebec and California.
But the premier-designate consistently lumped in Ontario’s system on the campaign trail with a proposed federal system for minimum federal carbon pricing standards — one that federal officials had said would only apply in cases where provincial systems are below the standard set by the Canadian government.
Federal Conservative Party finance critic Pierre Poilievre wasted no time during the daily question period in the House of Commons on Friday to pick up on Ford’s win as a signal of support for his party’s own federal war of words against the Liberal plan to price carbon nationwide.
“The people have voted against the prime minister's carbon tax,” said Poilievre. He then asked Prime Minister Justin Trudeau — who is in Quebec for the summit — if he would “accept the verdict of the people and cancel his carbon tax plan to raise the price of everything.”
Conservative public services critic Tony Clement also told National Observer after Ford’s win on Thursday night that he thought Ford’s win meant federal carbon pricing was “dead on arrival.”
“You’ve already had resistance from provinces like Saskatchewan. If (United Conservative Party Leader) Jason Kenney wins in Alberta, forget about carbon pricing in Alberta,” he said. “There might even have to be some litigation about this, but the fact of the matter is this is not a popular thing.”
McKenna reiterated that 80 per cent of Canadians already live in a jurisdiction where carbon pricing is in place. British Columbia and Alberta have carbon taxes, while Ontario and Quebec have cap and trade.
“We’re also taking action to make historic investments in public transportation, historic investments in clean technologies, dealing with the impacts of climate change that we’re seeing across the country,” McKenna said.
The minister added she was committed to working with “all the provinces and territories,” as well as businesses, on getting a federal price on pollution in place.
‘Lack of concrete detail’ so far on plastics charter
Trudeau has been pushing for a charter at the G7 to reduce plastic waste pollution in the world's oceans.
But if a plastics charter with the G7 emerges at the summit, the highest-level discussions won't include the Americans, because U.S. President Donald Trump has decided to flee the summit early, skipping out on a "working session" on oceans with other nations invited to the summit.
At her press conference, McKenna said plastics pollution in the oceans is a “top priority” at the summit. But she could not say yet whether the Americans would be on board with a plastics charter.
“We’re certainly working hard to get G7 leadership on board,” said McKenna. “We think it’s really important that the world comes together...only by working together can we tackle this.”
Ashley Wallis, program manager for water and plastics at Environmental Defence, said she was still hoping Canada would make an announcement on the second day of the summit with more detail.
“I think that at this point, all that the minister has really said is that this is an issue — which we knew,” she said, “and that Canada is focused on it and is planning to do something, but there’s still a lack of concrete detail.”
Wallis said she will be looking for a charter that provides a time-constrained target, of which all the G7 nations agreed, as well as a commitment to working with industry to create more recyclable or biodegradable products, and investments in developing countries.