Trudeau Commits to Carbon Price Amid Provincial Opposition

Canada Moves to Cut Carbon Emissions
  • Prime Minister speaks ahead of meeting of Canada’s premiers
  • Oil-producing Saskatchewan threatens to fight federal move

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is pledging to set a national carbon price to cut emissions, a key message sent as Canada’s provincial premiers meet to discuss how to proceed.

Trudeau and the premiers fell short of a commitment to impose a price earlier this year, instead pledging to study a plan that could include “carbon pricing mechanisms,” and report back on an emissions reduction plan by October. A carbon price typically means either a tax or a cap-and-trade regime.

Some provinces oppose such a plan, with Saskatchewan threatening legal action. Trudeau and Environment Minister Catherine McKenna, however, have ratcheted up their pledges this month, suggesting the federal government will set a price if all provinces can’t agree on one.

“We’re going to be making sure that there is a strong price on carbon right across the country, and we’re hoping the provinces are going to be able to do that in a way for themselves,” Trudeau said in a CBC television interview Wednesday.

Saskatchewan -- whose economy is based on oil, gas, mining and agriculture -- has led opposition to either a tax or cap-and-trade regime, saying it will be another economic barrier at a time of weak growth.

The official meeting of Canada’s premiers begins Thursday in Whitehorse, Yukon, where they’ll discuss reducing trade barriers, climate-change measures and health-care transfers, among other subjects.

‘Responsible’ Move

“We are going to reduce our emissions. We’re going to do it in a responsible way, but we’re very happy to work with the provinces to figure out the way that works best for them,” Trudeau said Wednesday.

McKenna said last week the country would have a carbon price by the fall. Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall has threatened a fight if Trudeau moves on his own, asking his justice department to explore its legal options.

“They’re talking in unilateral tones about a carbon price,” Wall told reporters Tuesday, adding he wouldn’t complain if provinces were able to pursue something other than a tax, such as carbon capture and storage.

“If it’s something else, that’s a problem, because this is fundamentally the wrong time for the country -- and especially for western Canada -- to be looking at another tax on everything,” Wall said. “And we would have to examine all of our options if they were to come in some unilateral way with a price, or a carbon tax.”

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