Climate change committee off to secretive start

The New Brunswick Legislature's all-party committee on climate change is off to a secretive start.

Expert Andrew Leach of Alberta briefs MLAs in meeting held behind closed doors

Andrew Leach chaired the Alberta government's climate change panel and met Tuesday with the New Brunswick Legislature's all-party committee on climate change. (CBC )

The New Brunswick Legislature's all-party committee on climate change is off to a secretive start.

The committee of MLAs met on Tuesday with one of Canada's leading experts on the subject, economist Andrew Leach of the University of Alberta.

But the meeting happened behind closed doors.

Leach chaired the Alberta NDP government's advisory committee that made recommendations on a climate change plan. The Notley government has adopted a plan that includes an emissions cap and a carbon tax.

Alberta plan discussed

Liberal committee chair Andrew Harvey, the MLA for Carleton-Victoria, said Leach talked to the committee for 90 minutes Tuesday "on the process obviously but also on the content" of his Alberta recommendations.

"He discussed carbon pricing, different aspects of that," Harvey said. "He pointed out some of the similarities and some of the differences between the two provinces."

Green Party Leader David Coon was out of town Tuesday and unable to attend a closed-door meeting of the legislature's all-party committee on climate change. (CBC)
Green party leader David Coon, a member of the committee, said the session with Leach should not have been held behind closed doors.

Coon was away at a funeral Tuesday and missed the meeting with Leach. He said Wednesday the committee had agreed that meetings with experts should be public "so that both the committee members and the New Brunswick public at large could learn together."

It's something everybody should have had a chance to hear about, absolutely.- David Coon, Green Party leader

Coon says Alberta's climate change plan is "very robust" and "it's something everybody should have had a chance to hear about, absolutely."

Legislative committees generally hold all their sessions in public except for planning meetings. In 2012, a committee reviewing the Official Languages Act held secret hearings.

Vacationing in Fredericton

Leach has family in the Fredericton area and was visiting during his vacation when someone heard he was in town and proposed he meet with the committee.

"It was as much good luck as good management," said Albert PC MLA Brian Kierstead, who sits on the committee.

It was as much good luck as good management.- Brian Kierstead, PC MLA

"He talked about how a different province went through the same thing, trying to determine what the best option would be for their province to go with on climate change."

Leach said by email that he didn't feel free to discuss what he told the New Brunswick MLAs.

"It was an in-camera session, so I can't tell you anything about the meeting, unfortunately," he wrote.

He wouldn't comment on whether the meeting should have been public. "Not for me to say."

'Just thrown together'

Kierstead wouldn't say what he thought, either.

"I don't even know how to answer that because it was very quick, just thrown together. … He happened to be here and as a courtesy he said he would stop in and meet with the committee members."

The committee plans to hold public hearings later this year and has invited anyone who wants to appear to get in touch by July 15.

Harvey said all future committee meetings with experts will be public, and Leach could be invited back for one of those hearings.

He may be one of the people who comes in and does a public presentation on the angle from New Brunswick, and Alberta, the differences and those types of things."

About the Author

Jacques Poitras

Provincial Affairs reporter

Jacques Poitras has been CBC's provincial affairs reporter in New Brunswick since 2000. Raised in Moncton, he also produces the CBC political podcast Spin Reduxit.