New Brunswick

Higgs leaves meeting with Trudeau 'disappointed' in progress on carbon tax

New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs said he felt an "unwillingness" from the prime minister to find a fair solution for New Brunswick on the carbon tax.

Higgs said the two spent the most time discussing the carbon tax, but it didn't seem to be productive

New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs met with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in Ottawa Tuesday for what he described as a disappointing discussion. (CBC)

New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs said he left Tuesday's meeting with Prime Minster Justin Trudeau disappointed by a lack of progress on the six agenda items they discussed.

The two tackled the carbon tax, New Brunswick's health care financial framework, pipeline bill C69, softwood lumber tariffs, the national energy utility corridor and depleting salmon stocks in New Brunswick's rivers and lakes during a meeting in Ottawa.

The Francophonie Games, the most recent issue on which the premier and prime minister have clashed, was not on the agenda.

Higgs said the two spent the most time discussing the carbon tax, but he said it didn't seem to be productive.

"There was a recognition that I kind of inherited the situation, but there was an unwillingness to deal with it in 2019 in a way that makes it fair for [New Brunswick] in comparison to other provinces, and that certainly was disappointing," Higgs said.

Higgs said he asked for the same treatment and industry exemptions the federal government has already agreed upon with provinces like Newfoundland and Labrador and Saskatchewan. He also asked for a delay on the levy to be applied to consumers until there is a court ruling in the challenge of the federal carbon plan.

Trudeau and Higgs discussed six agenda items, but spent the most time talking over the carbon tax. (Radio-Canada)

"I asked specifically for those two items and I did not get a favourable response in either case," Higgs said.

Higgs said New Brunswick industry is unfairly disadvantaged and being penalized, which he said would ultimately mean higher prices. 

Higg said he did not get a clear answer from the federal government on how much money the carbon tax will collect compared to how much will be paid out. 

In their discussion of New Brunswick's diminishing salmon stocks, Higgs said Trudeau wanted to follow the science, but he pointed out that while Halifax has a salmon replenishing program in the Bay of Fundy, Miramichi doesn't have the same opportunity because of differences of opinions in the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

"My only suggestion was that the science of the Halifax DFO should be similar to the science coming out of Moncton [DFO]," Higgs said.

"All I'm looking for is consistency there to have a plan and not wait for the stocks to be depleted entirely before we do anything."

The only agenda item that Higgs said it looked like there would be movement on was softwood lumber. The premier said he's expecting some new information on progress with industry from the federal government, and is eager to have it before his trip to Washington in a few weeks.