Manitoba premier stands by federal carbon tax opposition, but says he wants to work with Ottawa
'We are the province that brings people together,' Brian Pallister says after Trudeau's Liberals re-elected
Hours after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was re-elected to lead the country with a minority government, Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister said he has no plans to back down from his opposition to the federal Liberals' carbon tax.
"We're going to proceed with our made-in-Manitoba green plan with or without the federal government's support," the Conservative premier said at a news conference on Tuesday.
"I would just hope that we can continue to work together on these green projects, not divide ourselves and fight about carbon taxes."
Despite his staunch opposition to the federal carbon tax, Pallister said he looks forward to working closely with Ottawa.
"We have a new minority government in Canada, and we have the government of Manitoba ready to work with the government of Canada, and of course with all the parties, in the best interests of Manitoba," he said.
"Manitoba's always acted as the keystone, after all. We are the province that brings people together from all over the world and all over the country."
'We need action'
Pallister is one of five provincial leaders who has publicly criticized or legally challenged the federal carbon tax on fossil fuels, which took effect in April in Manitoba and other provinces that didn't already have carbon-pricing measures deemed sufficient under the federal plan.
Those provinces also included Saskatchewan, whose Premier Scott Moe vowed on Tuesday to maintain his fight against the tax.
In a terse statement, the Saskatchewan premier called on Trudeau, whose Liberals failed to win a single seat in Saskatchewan or neighbouring Alberta, to extinguish what he described as a "fire" of regional alienation burning in Western Canada.
He cited cancelling the carbon tax as one measure that could get the job done.
"Last night, Prime Minister Trudeau stated to Saskatchewan and Alberta: 'I've heard your frustration. I want to be there to support you,"' wrote Moe. "Those are nice words, but we need action."
Fellow Prairie Premier Jason Kenney of Alberta, another member of the group of conservative premiers dubbed "the resistance," did not immediately respond to the outcome of the federal election, though Kenney was scheduled to speak later on Tuesday afternoon.
There was relatively little comment from Ontario Premier Doug Ford, one of the most vocal opponents of the federal carbon tax.
Ford, who was all but invisible during the election campaign, had previously vowed to resort to any measures necessary to eliminate the carbon tax. In Ontario, that has included a court challenge similar to one mounted in Saskatchewan, as well as an aggressive new law forcing the province's gas stations to post anti-carbon-tax stickers on their pumps.
In the lead-up to the election, Ford had said the results would dictate whether he persisted in his roughly $30-million plan to fight the tax.
"This carbon tax, it's not going to be the courts that are going to decide. The people are going to decide, when the election is held," he said in August. "Once the people decide, I believe in democracy, I respect democracy. We move on."
But the day after Trudeau's re-election, and following a phone call between the two leaders, Ford's office was striking a more cautious tone.
"As we evaluate the results of the federal election, and as the premier said previously, we will continue to discuss our government's efforts to fight the federal carbon tax," Ford's press secretary, Ivana Yelich, said in a statement Tuesday.
'The resistance' shows cracks
Meanwhile, New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs, who watched as residents handed six of his province's 10 seats to the Liberals and one to the Greens during Monday's vote, appeared to back down from his opposition to the carbon tax.
"Our position was always [to] let the industry pay for the technology to put into research and development, and not force taxpayers to pay that," the Progressive Conservative premier said at a news conference.
"People voted for it, so we in New Brunswick have to find a way to make it work."
Higgs paved the way for the province to come up with its own scheme to reduce carbon emissions, which would free New Brunswick from the federal carbon tax.
Back in Manitoba, Pallister said his Progressive Conservative government will work co-operatively with Ottawa despite differences of opinion on the carbon tax — and he hopes the other dissenting premiers will do the same.
"I've always believed Canada is a lot more than the sum of its separate parts, and so I see — as we all see — a pretty fragmented outcome by region and that concerns me," said Pallister.
"Here in Manitoba, we're solid Canadians loyal to the Canadian cause, and the cause right now would be supported, I think, by premiers working co-operatively with one another but also working co-operatively with the federal government.
"That's what we've done, and we'll continue to do that."
With files from Eleanor Coopsammy and The Canadian Press