Brad Wall, Justin Trudeau Duke It Out Over Carbon Tax On Twitter

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OTTAWA — Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau took their disagreement over a carbon tax to social media Tuesday.

“During last elxn Trudeau said he would not impose carbon tax plan on provs. I supported that policy. Keep your word,” Wall tweeted, throwing the PM’s pledge to work with provinces on climate change right back at him.

Wall linked to a clip of Trudeau from last year’s Globe and Mail electoral debate in which he said:

“The idea of imposing a bureaucracy out of Ottawa, a cap and trade system, on provinces like British Columbia that have already moved forward with a world-renowned carbon tax that is actually working for them is actually a completely nonsensical plan.
“We are committed to working with the provinces to reduce emissions, to encourage them to hit those — the targets needed so that we can contribute as a responsible country once again.”

Wall also juxtaposed a clip of himself saying that Trudeau had campaigned on a plan to allow provinces to meet targets in a way that suited their jurisdiction. Trudeau is seen nodding in agreement.

Three hours after Wall’s tweet — and after the two had what Trudeau called a “spirited” and “direct” phone conversation — the prime minister responded with a longer version of the debate clip, suggesting the premier was misrepresenting what he said.

“Our plan to fight climate change - in cooperation with the provinces - has been clear since the start of the campaign,” Trudeau tweeted. The longer clip states:

“We have a Canadian policy, and it’s one that recognizes that for 10 years under Mr. Harper, with no leadership on the environment, provinces have moved forward. And 86 per cent of our economy, our four biggest provinces, have actually committed to putting a price on carbon, and they’ve done it in different ways, which makes Mr. Mulcair’s proposal so unrealistic. The idea of imposing a bureaucracy out of Ottawa, a cap and trade system, on provinces like British Columbia that have already moved forward with a world-renowned carbon tax that is actually working for them is actually a completely nonsensical plan.
“We are committed to working with the provinces to reduce emissions, to encourage them to hit those — the targets needed so that we can contribute as a responsible country once again to reducing emissions. We will go to Paris for the climate change conference with all Premiers to talk about how we are going to meet that responsibility we collectively share on this planet, to prevent a two-degree increase in global temperatures.”

Trudeau was referring to the NDP’s plan to impose a cap and trade system across Canada, including in jurisdictions such as B.C. which has a successful $30 per tonne carbon tax, as “nonsensical.”

The tale of the two debate clips is the latest salvo in a messy battle between Trudeau and some provinces who are upset the federal government plans to impose a carbon price in their jurisdiction.

On Monday, while provincial environment ministers were meeting with federal counterpart Catherine McKenna in Montreal to hash out a climate change plan, Trudeau trumped them by announcing the details in the House of Commons.

Starting in 2018, the Liberals will set a minimum price on carbon pollution of $10 per tonne, which will rise by $10 a year until 2022 to reach $50 per tonne, Trudeau announced.

The provinces and territories will get to decide how they implement carbon pricing — whether they adopt a carbon tax or a cap and trade system. Those who choose the latter would see their pollution permits decrease every year.

But provinces and territories who refuse to adopt either system would see Ottawa impose “a pricing system” in 2018. The money collected from a new carbon tax would stay in the province or territory and it would be up to them to decide how to spend it — for example, on tax breaks or, perhaps, health care.

brad wall
Brad Wall arrives for a meeting of provincial premiers in Whitehorse, Yukon, July 21, 2016. (Photo: Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press)

The federal Liberals’ surprise announcement didn’t please everyone.

Saskatchewan’s environment minister walked out of the Montreal meeting, along with ministers from Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador.

Wall said the meeting wasn’t worth the CO2 emissions that had been created by the ministers flying to Montreal and he called Trudeau’s “unilateral” action a betrayal of earlier sentiments that the PM wanted to work with the provinces.

“The level of disrespect shown by the Prime Minister and his government today is stunning,” Wall said in a statement.

A carbon tax would damage Saskatchewan’s economy by siphoning more than $2.5 billion out of the province, Wall said. And he argued it is pointless because Canada contributes less than two per cent to global GHG emissions.

catherine mckenna
Catherine McKenna talks with media in Ottawa, Sept. 28. (Photo: Matthew Usherwood/The Canadian Press)

McKenna said she’d been to Saskatchewan, visited carbon capture and storage facilities, met with representatives of the agriculture industry and with researchers. It was up to the provinces and territories to develop a plan that worked for them, she said.

Saskatchewan could return the revenues of a carbon tax to small businesses and consumers, or choose to invest in innovation or in the agriculture sector, she said.

The provinces, the territories and the federal government had been clear in Paris, and in March, when they met in Vancouver, that they needed to work together to meet Canada’s climate goals, she added.

'We need to put a price on pollution'

“Everyone agreed, all of the premiers agreed with the prime minister that we need to meet our international obligation,” she told reporters. “As part of that, we need to put a price on pollution, so it’s time for leadership at the federal level and for the provinces to deliver on what we committed to Canadians.”

In a membership drive email, titled: “Let’s start pricing carbon pollution,” the Liberals said their plan would reduce pollution, give Canada an edge in building a clean-growth economy by making businesses more innovative and competitive and creating new jobs for middle class Canadians.

Interim Conservative leader Rona Ambrose said the Liberals’ new tax would cost every Canadian family $2,500.

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