Canada’s environment minister is taking her push for a national carbon price to the region most vocal in its opposition to the policy.
Catherine McKenna, a first-term Ontario lawmaker in Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government, said she will soon visit oil-producing Saskatchewan to study its flagship Boundary Dam carbon capture-and-storage project. The prairie province’s premier opposes federal calls for a national carbon price -- either in the form of a tax or as a cap-and-trade program.
The environment minister isn’t, however, saying whether she’d try to impose a mandatory price over the objections of any holdouts. In an interview Friday, McKenna twice declined to say what she’ll do if the province -- home to mining giants Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan and Cameco Corp., as well as significant agricultural and oil production -- doesn’t come on board.
“We’re having this discussion about how do we ensure we get a price on carbon across Canada,” McKenna said by phone from Washington, where she’s attending World Bank meetings. “I think this is an opportunity for Canada. When you put a price on carbon, what you do is you price pollution, something we want less of.”
Provincial premiers agreed in March to study carbon pricing “mechanisms,” which Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall said could include carbon capture and storage. Carbon pricing, though, typically refers to either a tax or a cap-and-trade program, and McKenna agreed in the interview “there are two systems” in play.
Canada’s provinces and particularly its northern territories, where thinly populated remote communities often rely on diesel fuel for power, all have different needs when it comes to cutting emissions, McKenna said. Ontario, Quebec, British Columbia and Alberta -- the four most populous provinces -- have already adopted, or are about to adopt, some kind of carbon price.
“Clearly we have provinces and territories that have different economic profiles, so we need to take that into account,” McKenna said when asked what she’d do if Saskatchewan doesn’t come on board. “This is an opportunity to take serious action on climate change, but in the most cost-effective way, and businesses are calling for it.”
She said she’ll visit Saskatchewan as early as next month to study its carbon capture efforts and discuss “more broadly how we work together” on reducing emissions.