Newfoundland and Labrador Environment Minister Perry Trimper walked out of a meeting with his federal counterpart Catherine McKenna in Montreal on Monday afternoon, over the announcement of a new federal carbon-pricing scheme.
Margaret Miller and Scott Moe, environment ministers for Nova Scotia and Saskatchewan, respectively, also left the meeting early.
Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall blasted the federal government's plan to impose, and enforce, a minimum price for carbon production.
The federal plan sets a "floor price" of $10 a tonne in 2018, increasing to $50 a tonne in 2022.
Ministers 'railroaded,' says Trimper
Trimper said he was surprised by the announcement, given Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and provincial premiers agreed in March to work on a national climate change plan.
"Suddenly there's an announcement of policy which has direct implications on the content of recommendations that we're going to put forward," he said. "All that work, all that effort, yet the federal government's coming forward with a very strong directive that runs counter."
Environment ministers didn't see the federal announcement coming, said Trimper, who felt they were "railroaded" by Monday's announcement.
"We all agree on the end point, that we have to reduce emissions. How we get there is our challenge," he said, adding that he's been frustrated by what he called a lack of leadership on climate change policy during the previous Conservative administration.
'To have this top-down-driven, 'this is how it's going to be' approach runs counter to what we've been talking about.' - Perry Trimper
"Now, suddenly, we have that leadership," he said. "In the meantime, and for that last 10 years, the provinces and territories have been making a lot of progress, going down their own paths, coming up with their own strategies. So to have this sort of top-down-driven, 'this is how it's going to be' approach runs counter to what we've all been talking about."
Problem with timing, not necessarily content
Trimper said Newfoundland and Labrador can work with the scheme proposed today.
"There are elements, however, that cause some concern, so we wanted to get into the nuances of some of the wording, but that's for another table," he said. "But all of a sudden we had a policy presented to us today that just took us down a whole different path than our agenda had been."
Trimper called for the adjournment because he said he sensed some of the other ministers were troubled by the announcement's timing.
"I don't think you'll find a lot of us will find a problem necessarily with the content, it's just the timing and how it was delivered," he said.
Asked if he left the meeting early because he was displeased, Trimper said it was at the direction of Premier Dwight Ball.
"I shook hands with everyone in the room. They're all good friends there and they all respect what we're having to deal with," he said.
"No, I'm not necessarily displeased. It's all part of working as a family that's got a lot of different personalities."