Premiers vent on goal posts & # 39; and internal trade at the first meeting of ministers


The federal-provincial arrogance that preceded the fourth meeting of prime ministers of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau did not translate into any dramatic confrontation. But when the negotiations ended in Montreal on Friday, it was clear that the tension was also not lending itself to any tangible progress.

Several days of public disputes over the agenda, including a threat from the Ontario Premier's Doug Ford, to leave, seemed to calm down as the leaders entered a room together.

Sources told CBC News that Ford spoke very little during the one-day meeting as the cameras caught him smiling and saying things were "fantastic."

The PM met with indigenous leaders Friday before the prime ministers joined the leaders of First Nations, Inuit and Métis for a broader discussion of their economic development issues.

Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs Dominic LeBlanc, Environment Minister Catherine McKenna, Finance Minister Bill Morneau, and Canada's ambassador to the United States, David MacNaughton, joined the group on Friday for talks on issues economic and commercial.

Cameras were invited to briefly enter the room to record Trudeau's opening comments, which unveiled his government's record of job creation and economic growth and its efforts to protect the environment.

"Pollution should not be free anywhere in Canada," he said, while several premiers who vehemently oppose the federal carbon price strategy note. (Saskatchewan and Ontario are challenging the federal carbon tax in court, calling it unconstitutional).

Trudeau praised Quebec's cap and trade system for reducing carbon emissions.

Emissions cut confusion

The biggest disagreement that emerged from the talks seemed to come more from the confusion than from the controversy.

The Ford administration's decision to close its boundary and trade system has affected Canada's overall math to meet its 2015 commitment to the UN climate convention in Paris to reduce carbon emissions by 30 percent by 2030.

The previous Ontario government had committed to a 37 percent reduction, but Ford's new government plan will only reduce provincial emissions by 30 percent.

The difference has to be invented somewhere, a fact noted by Trudeau when, according to the people in the room at the time, he told the premiers that some provinces would exceed their goals – and if it is possible for Ontario to exceed 30 percent without bringing a carbon tax, it should do more.

Other provinces, according to Trudeau, can not reach 30%. (He may be referring to Alberta, which – because of its carbon-intensive oil industry – faces a significant challenge in cutting emissions.)

The prime minister's statements were interpreted by Ford and Saskatchewan, Prime Minister Scott Moe, as the federal government changed its demands on provincial governments and asked some to do more.

"Suddenly, the goalposts were changed," Ford said. "That creates uncertainty."

"We are going to keep our side of the business. We are now asking the PM to keep his side of the deal."

Ontario Premier Doug Ford speaks with Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs Dominic Leblanc at the start of the first meeting of ministers in Montreal. (Paul Chiasson / Canadian Press)

"We did not change the goalposts," Environment Minister Catherine McKenna told reporters.

Other prime ministers, including Nova Scotia Prime Minister Stephen McNeil, agreed with McKenna that Trudeau did not ask some provinces to exceed their emissions reduction targets. Nova Scotia, McNeil said, is on track to exceed the 30% target.

"Premier Ford has come up with a plan that's a step back," Trudeau said. "Canada's targets are national targets, even if the Premier wants to play games with numbers.

"If anyone is moving the goal posts, it's Premier Ford."

Trudeau later said that all prime ministers expressed a desire to protect the environment, but disagreed on how to do so.

Ford, Moe and New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs, all opposed to the federal government's carbon pricing strategy, have collaborated on the strategy ahead of the negotiations.

Other premiers, such as John Horgan of the B.C., continue to support carbon prices, while other premiers such as McNeil have hit the federal climate strategy despite initial concerns.

Demonstrators outside the prime ministers meeting in Montreal on Friday urged the major to take more action to reduce carbon emissions. (Jessica Rubinger / CBC)

Protesters outside the meeting in Montreal urged the premiers to do more, not less, to reduce carbon emissions.

After that meeting, McKenna, the Federal Minister for the Environment, is going to Poland for the UN climate conference.

Debate on C-69

Several prime ministers made it clear that at the meeting they were not interested in being lectured by Trudeau or one of his ministers.

A source in the room told the CBC News that New Brunswick Prime Minister Blaine Higgs at one point interrupted Morneau's presentation to suggest that he respond to questions. Morneau answered, then continued speaking.

Higgs later told reporters that he did not think he was being a speaker and felt positive about how things were going.

"People have come up with some issues that we need to keep working on," Morneau told reporters, describing the environment as "good" and the former, including Ford, as "inclined," involved and working constructively during their one-hour session. with them.

Quebec Premier François Legault (left) speaks to his colleague from Nova Scotia, Stephen McNeil. As the talks began on Friday, McNeil announced several concrete steps his province had taken to cut across interprovincial trade barriers. (THE CANADIAN PRESS)

When the discussion turned to energy issues – such as gas pipelines and Bill C-69, Trudeau's legislation to change the environmental assessment process to approve future projects – the premiers expressed fears that the veto power of the federal bureau would dissuade future investments.

Some premiers said they want the C-69 revoked. (He is currently standing in the Senate.) Others disagreed, saying that the old system was worse.

Trudeau pushed the former to suggest other solutions to the oil crisis. The only bid was to move more oil by rail, a source said.

Close to alcohol advertisement?

Interprovincial trade barriers should be the original focus of this meeting. But the former do not seem to have done much about this file since they met in July.

Quebec was chairing the internal trade committee before the October election that replaced the Liberals of Philippe Couillard by a government of the Coenition Avenir Québec under Premier François Legault; a new minister is now in the chair. Efforts to harmonize regulations for the trucking industry have advanced, but in other archives – such as the liberalization of alcohol sales – the provinces seem to be unfolding.

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley told reporters that the most important economic issues facing Canada are now the difficulties in the oil and gas sector. (Paul Chiasson / Canadian Press)

McNeil, one of the top two in charge of the alcohol process last July, issued a statement highlighting several moves his province was making to facilitate domestic trade, including removing the personal exemption limits for alcohol transported to Nova Scotia. consumption.

Top contenders tried, but failed to come up with a joint announcement on the alcohol exemption limits last summer. Manitoba Prime Minister Brian Pallister, the other premier working with McNeil on trade issues, said nine provinces are poised to end these exemption limits, but the other provinces have not agreed to leave publicly so the rest can move forward.

"Perfection is the enemy of good," Pallister said, lamenting that other priorities continue to take precedence and impede progress on issues that should have been resolved 30 years ago.

Energy, divisive climate issues

Instead of these business problems, Alberta Premier Rachel Notley and Saskatchewan Premier Moe issued a letter on Tuesday demanding a focus on the energy crisis. Canada's energy sector is being hampered by the low prices of Canadian oil and gas bottlenecks, frustrating efforts to sell Canadian petroleum products into new markets.

The federal government has bought the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project earlier this year, but it is not guaranteed that a renewed consultation effort to ensure project approval will succeed. Meanwhile, Notley is moving to buy extra freight cars to carry more oil per train – a plan Trudeau seemed willing to consider getting involved during an interview on Thursday. The NationalRosemary Barton.

Notley reminded reporters that it only "makes sense" for Canada to be more strategic about how it uses its oil resources. Although no solution resulted from this meeting, she expressed satisfaction at having raised the profile of the issue.

At the closing press conference, Trudeau said he wants to continue working with Notley on how to help the oil and gas sector in his province in difficult times.

Higgs has expressed interest in reviving the Energy East pipeline proposal, perhaps with new government investment. Premier Legault said he was not interested, citing strong opposition in his Quebec.

Legault told reporters that he wants $ 300 million in federal money to pay the costs of asylum seekers who cross the border of Canada illegally out of regular waypoints. The federal government was paying only for the cost of sheltering them – about $ 76 million last year – and Legault said Ottawa is willing to discuss the possibility of doing more.

Quebec's milk producers also protested outside the first ministerial meeting on Friday. They do not believe the federal government is doing enough to make up for its losses in recent international trade agreements. (Ryan Remiorz / Canadian Press)

Representatives from Quebec's dairy sector were also protesting outside the meeting. They are eager for federal compensation for what they have given up on recent international agreements, something that Legault also raised on Friday.


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