Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister emerged from a meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau Monday, saying he’s prepared to present a modified climate change plan that could include a carbon tax, but he wants the federal government to respect and recognize his province’s record on environmental protection.
“We deserve to be respected for our green record. We do not deserve to be called climate change deniers by anybody,” he said.
“Political science is fine before an election. Now let’s talk environmental science. We’re prepared to be measured on our green plan, and we want acceptance of our made-in-Manitoba green strategies. We want the respect we deserve as a province.”
Pallister said he will continue to have a dialogue with the federal government about Manitoba’s strategy, and that he is prepared to modify the provincial plan that could include a carbon price “of some kind.”
The Liberal cabinet retreat began its second day in Winnipeg Monday with the meeting between Trudeau and Pallister to talk about public safety, flood protection and the thorny topic of the federal carbon tax.
On the eve of the meeting, Environment and Climate Change Minister Jonathan Wilkinson said while the government is always “open to conversations” about how to improve public policy, he noted that the carbon tax works, in part, because it is national in scope and is consistently applied across all provinces.
“If there are ways in which we can respond to some of the concerns that Premier Pallister has, we’re certainly open to talking about that,” he said in a media scrum at the cabinet retreat Sunday.
“But I would tell you that we just went through an election campaign where the price on pollution was a key part of the discussion, and two-thirds of Canadians voted for parties that supported a price on pollution.
“It is the most effective and efficient way to reduce emissions.”
The Liberals were shut out of Saskatchewan and Alberta in the Oct. 21 federal election, largely due to voter dissatisfaction there over the carbon tax and the lack of progress over a pipeline being built. Trudeau has since promised to listen, reach out and address those concerns to calm the rising sentiment of western alienation.
Yet the competing objectives of making climate change action a priority, while promoting a pipeline is proving to be a challenge.
After delivering a briefing to cabinet Sunday, Ian Anderson, chief executive of Trans Mountain Corp., was asked by reporters how Canadians might feel about the government’s apparently contradictory objectives.
Anderson replied that while there must be action on climate change, measures are also needed to promote economic development and trade.
‘Why not from Canada?’
“The oil that we’re going to move in this pipeline is going to be consumed,” Anderson said. “It’s going to come from somewhere. Why not from Canada?
“Why not from a country that has the highest standards of regulation, the highest standards of responsible development in the world?”
Anderson said the Trans Mountain pipeline project is under construction in Alberta and British Columbia, employing roughly 2,700 people. About 10 per cent of those employees are Indigenous, and there is also contract work underway with other Indigenous companies, he said.
“We hope that will be a real success story of the project once we’re completed,” he said, adding that the scheduled completion date is in 2022.
Just two weeks after last October federal election, Pallister met with Trudeau at the prime minister’s office in Ottawa.
At the time, he said the election exposed deep regional rifts in the country, and offered Trudeau what he called “friendly advice” on how to deal with mounting frustration in the west.
Trudeau to meet Winnipeg mayor
“Clearly there’s some great frustration with the lack of progress, not just on pipelines, but on other things,” he said, citing persistent gaps in flood protection measures in his province.
Pallister’s office said the premier plans to raise with Trudeau the delays in federal approvals around the Lake Manitoba Outlet Channels project, a flood protection and climate adaptation infrastructure.
Other topics include federal health care transfers, Indigenous child welfare issues and public safety issues.
Trudeau is also meeting with Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman, who also has public safety issues at the top of his priority list.
Inside the cabinet room, Public Safety Minister Bill Blair is scheduled to update ministers Monday on the government’s plans to bring in gun control measures. The Liberals have promised to allow municipalities to ban handguns, and to prohibit certain types of military-style assault weapons.
Last month, Blair said a list of those prohibited weapons would be released “as quickly as possible.”