Inside Politics

Prentice on emissions targets: take 2

(Bill Graveland/Canadian Press)
Before we get all excited about Environment Minister Jim Prentice's announcement on Saturday that he's changed Canada's greenhouse gas emissions targets to match those of the U.S., keep in mind that Prentice has said it all before.
CBC first tweeted the news on Dec. 2, when Prentice announced it during Question Period.
The only news now is that Prentice did this past weekend what he said he was going to do in December.

Here's the relevant part of the December 2 question period (from Hansard), starting with the question that called Prentice to his feet:

Mr. Bernard Bigras (Rosemont La Petite-Patrie, BQ):  

"Mr. Speaker, the Quebec minister Line Beauchamp reacted strongly yesterday to the publication of the unfair sharing of the burden of reducing greenhouse gases being proposed by Ottawa: It is obvious that...Quebec's aspirations must not be used to give other provinces a free ride and increase their own emissions.

Can the Minister of the Environment confirm that the efforts made by Quebec companies to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions will not allow Alberta to shirk its responsibilities and increase its emissions with impunity?"

Hon. Jim Prentice (Minister of the Environment, CPC):  

"Mr. Speaker, I met with Line Beauchamp and we discussed this matter. Our policy is simple, to enter into an agreement with the major emitters in Copenhagen and to harmonize our targets and regulations with our partner, the United States, while establishing a carbon trading system.

President Obama announced a reduction target of 17% below 2005 levels by 2020. We will make the necessary adjustments to have the same target."

And what was the reason the targets were released just this weekend?
Canada was waiting for the U.S. to file its targets. And the deadline set by the Copenhagen conference was Jan. 31 (Sunday).
Prentice told an audience at the University of Calgary today that because of its close trade relationship, Canada has to have the same targets as the U.S.
"It's absolutely pointless for Canada and Canadian businesses to strike out on their own."
What is new and notable, is Prentice's increasingly open and aggressive defence of Alberta's oil sands.
In that same speech, he went on to clearly state that the oil sands are only going to get bigger, and that's okay with his government:

"Our government supports the continued expansion of the oil sands of Alberta. The oil sands are one of Canada's greatest resource endowments, and developed responsibly, they hold the promise to be a driving engine of the Canadian economy."

And Prentice has a plan to counter the international black eye that Canada is getting over oil sands development.

"We need to up our game, in terms of both environmental vigilance, and communication."

That makes it sound like, in the Environment Minister's opinion, any controversy over the oil sands is really just a communications problem.

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