A disappointed Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Wednesday that he was planning an intervention after learning that Ontario premier-designate Doug Ford was withdrawing from a national climate change plan.
“On the environment, the premier-designate has notified us that he intends to withdraw from the national climate plan," Trudeau told reporters at a news conference marking the end of the parliamentary session in Ottawa on Wednesday.
"This is obviously unfortunate, we would rather he not do that, but since he’s notified (us) that he’s withdrawing from the national climate change plan, we need to continue to ensure that we move forward on both growing the economy and protecting the environment at the same time."
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The federal government had not previously planned to intervene in Ontario, as it had said it would have accepted the outgoing Liberal provincial government's plan to price pollution using a cap and trade system.
Trudeau's pan-Canadian climate change framework was a 52-page roadmap, signed in December 2016 with provincial and territorial leaders as part of efforts to achieve Canada's international commitments under the Paris agreement to achieve a 30 per cent reduction in annual greenhouse gas emissions below 2005 levels by 2030.
All political parties in the House of Commons have agreed to this target as a minimum goal. Conservatives have said they disagree with requiring polluters to pay for emissions, but have not proposed any alternative solution.
The national framework from 2016 also includes new building codes to reduce energy consumption in homes and businesses, additional electric charging stations in support of zero-emission vehicles, as well as policies to reduce pollution from government operations.
Although Ford has not explicitly spoken about the entire pan-Canadian strategy, Trudeau's office said that the prime minister has taken the premier-designate’s stated intent to kill cap and trade as evidence enough that he will abandon the framework too.
Having its cap and trade system in place was the only way that Ontario, Canada's most populous province, planned to contribute to meeting the national carbon pollution reduction target, the prime minister’s office said.
The notice from Ford would undo a commitment made by outgoing Premier Kathleen Wynne who signed on to the national strategy in 2016, noting, at that time, that it supported the province's "transition to a low-carbon economy by encouraging innovation and helping us maintain our competitiveness."
Ford has also said he intends to fight Trudeau's efforts to impose a nationwide price on carbon, joining like-minded right-leaning conservative leaders such as Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe and United Conservative Party Leader Jason Kenney in Alberta.
A 'federal backstop'
At his news conference in Ottawa, Trudeau indicated he wouldn't be stopped by the opposition to his plan from conservative politicians.
"As I’ve said many times, we’re going to ensure that monies collected in any jurisdiction are returned to the citizens of that jurisdiction," Trudeau said.
"And I will highlight that the legislation we just passed, allows us in cases of using the federal backstop to directly return monies collected in Ontario to Ontarians. And that is certainly our intention to do that, unless provinces like British Columbia, for example, move forward with their own sufficiently ambitious plan — which B.C. has had for a long time — to meet our climate targets.”
Ford's rejection of the plan came after a week in which the provincial Progressive Conservative leader had announced Ontario was abandoning a joint cap and trade market with Quebec and California, designed to stimulate green jobs and growth, while discouraging business activity that contributes to climate change.
This was followed by an announcement that Ontario was also shutting down a provincial green fund offering rebates and other incentives to encourage green renovations and savings on home energy bills.
But Trudeau also said he was committed to working collaboratively with all premiers, including Ford, to make life better for Canadians.
His disagreement with Ford comes as Canada faces a looming trade war with U.S. President Donald Trump's administration, that has threatened to impose tariffs on Canadian-made steel and aluminum.
Trudeau said he plans to continue fighting for Canadian jobs, also encouraging the population to "buy Canadian" products and take vacations at home.
He also noted that that many Canadians depend on the success of the auto industry, another target recently mentioned by Trump, but that he would continue to stand up for Canada's interests.
When asked to comment on the president's recent personal attacks posted on Twitter, Trudeau said that Trump “prides himself on a certain degree of unpredictability.”
"I'm not in a position to opine on motivations of the president," Trudeau added.
Provinces asked for more time on cannabis
Earlier in the day, Trudeau spoke about the government's new cannabis legislation, that is set to come into force this fall.
He told the House of Commons during the daily question period that the substance would become legal on Oct. 17, 2018.
That’s a bit later than many analysts had expected, due to the prime minister’s long-standing position that it would be available by the “summer” of 2018.
The later date reportedly caught one legal cannabis industry stakeholder off guard.
During his press conference, the prime minister explained that the later date was because he had granted provincial requests.
“The provinces have asked us for more time than they originally thought that they’d need in order to get the implementation right,” he said.
“I think we all agree it’s important to get this right, and not rushed, and that’s why we’re moving forward with the legalization coming-into-force date as of October 17, 2018.”
Trudeau reiterated his government’s position that legalization was necessary to “better protect our kids, to better protect our communities, and to remove the profits from the pockets of organized crime.”
“It is our hope that as of Oct. 17 there will be a smooth operation of retail cannabis outlets operated by the provinces, with an online mail delivery system operated by the provinces, that will ensure that this happens in an orderly fashion.”
Trudeau will ‘look at’ pot amnesty after legalization
Some commentators have wondered whether the government will continue to jail people for marijuana-related possession offenses once cannabis is legal.
Trudeau said on Wednesday that he would “look into” that, but not until after Oct. 17.
“Once it comes into effect, then we will look into the whole question of amnesty and pardons,” he said.
“Until the actual coming into force date happens and the law is changed, there’s no point in looking at pardons while the old law is on the books.”
He also defended the government’s rejection of the position of some conservative senators to ban home grow, comparing it to allowing Canadians to grow tobacco.
“We know that it’s allowed to make your own wine, to make your own cigarettes,” he said. “Very few people do this, but some do. They do it in a controlled way that is regulated by law.”