'If we say no, we get Trudeau': Manitoba environment minister backs carbon tax

Manitoba Sustainable Development Minister Rochelle Squires issued a warning to Progressive Conservative Party members Saturday as she pitched her government's carbon tax plan.

Rochelle Squires focuses on province's 'green' history at PC meeting

Manitoba Environment Minister Rochelle Squires had a warning for her party: 'If we say no [to the provincial carbon tax], we get Trudeau.' (Justin Fraser/CBC)

Manitoba Sustainable Development Minister Rochelle Squires issued a warning to Progressive Conservative Party members Saturday as she pitched her government's carbon tax plan.

"If we say no, we get Trudeau." 

Squires spoke at the PC annual general meeting at the Winnipeg convention centre to outline the government's green plan, including the "made-in-Manitoba carbon plan" released last week.

That plan will put in place what she called a "flat like the prairie horizon" $25-per-tonne tax on carbon from 2018-22. 

To sway party members who might disagree with the tax, Squires cited the effects of droughts and floods on farmers, shorter sea ice seasons on polar bears, and wildfires that raged into September. 

She said the provincial government doesn't have a choice. 

"You might think there is an option in carbon pricing," Squires said. "There is no option. If we say no, we get Trudeau," she said, urging the crowd to repeat the rhyme with her.

Provinces and feds meet on climate, but is Manitoba out in the cold with carbon plan?

6 years ago
Duration 7:07
'If the end game is about reducing our carbon footprint, I believe Manitoba will have widespread support,' says the province's environment minister Rochelle Squires.

The federal government has said provinces can set their own carbon taxes or cap-and-trade systems, but they must be as good or better than the federal plan — which calls for a $10 per tonne tax, rising to $50 a tonne by 2022.

Federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna has said Manitoba's rate "will have to go up."

"If we say no to this, we get the $50 [per tonne] price on carbon. And that is something Manitobans are telling us loud and clear they don't want," she said. 

Consultations on the plan will continue until November, she said.

Wait times to be released monthly 

Earlier Saturday, Health Minister Kelvin Goertzen outlined the government's health-care plan for party members.

Health Minister Kelvin Goertzen explains the government's health-care policy to PC party members Saturday. (Justin Fraser/CBC)

He claimed that the median wait time at Winnipeg's emergency rooms and urgent care centres is down 13 per cent in the first month since consolidation to three ERs began. 

"But you'll notice behind me there is no 'mission accomplished' sign. Because it's only been one year," Goertzen said. 

He pledged to release wait-time data monthly, instead of yearly, in pursuit of that goal. 

He also told party members to watch for more changes following a report from the wait times task force "later this year." 

"There's a lot of change. I recognize there's a lot of change. As our leader often says, change is hard, change is difficult," Goertzen said.

"But let me tell you, there isn't a night that goes by — and my wife would confirm this — when I don't wake up and I wonder, 'what if these changes don't work?' But you know what, I think the NDP wake up every night and they think 'What if these changes do work?' And I'd rather wake up with my problems than theirs."

Later Saturday, in a "fireside chat," Premier Brian Pallister said his disagreements with the federal government won't end with health care and the carbon tax. 

Saying he didn't get into politics to make friends, Pallister told the crowd Trudeau had better get used to his outspoken criticism of federal policies. 

A CBC request for a reponse from the federal government was not immediately returned. 

The PC annual general meeting wrapped up Saturday afternoon.