Nfld. & Labrador

Premier supports minister's walkout on climate talks

The premier downplayed any divisions with Ottawa, a day after the Newfoundland and Labrador environment minister walked out of climate change talks with other provinces.

Dwight Ball says province needs to study impact before choosing best way to implement carbon pricing

Premier Dwight Ball doesn't see any long term consequences of this province walking out of climate change talks with other provinces and the federal government on Monday. (Sherry Vivian/CBC)

The premier downplayed any divisions with Ottawa, a day after the Newfoundland and Labrador environment minister walked out of climate change talks with other provinces.

Dwight Ball said there is not a big rift with the federal government, telling reporters he agrees with Prime Minister JustinTrudeau's plan to put in a price on carbon.

"We still encourage more discussion on this. We've got to figure out what the impact is here on Newfoundland and Labrador," Ball said Tuesday. 

"This is far from over."

Ball said the gas tax introduced in the spring budget is equivalent to a carbon tax of $70 a tonne and, even though it's temporary, Ball said it's a sign the province is already acting on climate change.

Environment Minister Perry Trimper was one of three ministers who walked out of talks Monday over climate change after the federal government announced it will force provinces to put a price on carbon.

"It's at the direction of my premier," Trimper told reporters yesterday as he left early from talks with other ministers. Ball told reporters Tuesday that he told Trimper to use his own judgement in discussions, and has full confidence in his minister.

The federal government will let provinces bring in either a cap and trade system or a carbon tax, but will enforce a minimum price.

Right now Ball says he's still figuring out the impact before he decides which option is best.

Ball says he's worried that carbon pricing has the potential to increase many costs in the province, and he pointed to Marine Atlantic ferry services, air travel, and food shipped to remote areas, like the coast of Labrador, where prices already high.

"What is the impact in the long term on how we offer services, and access services, to Newfoundlanders and Labradorians? We do not have the answers to this today, and this is the discussion we were hoping to have," said Ball.

NDP leader Earle McCurdy says industry in Newfoundland and Labrador will be able to handle a carbon tax (Sherry Vivian/CBC)

Added cost for industry

The other impact will be on industries in the province.

Ball said he is worried about the offshore oil industry, the NARL refinery in Come By Chance, and the iron ore mines in western Labrador that have all struggled and would face higher costs under a cap and trade system or carbon tax.

NDP Leader Earle McCurdy said he thinks industries will be able to cope if they have plenty of notice.

"I think a polluter-pays element has to be part of any carbon pricing thing," said McCurdy.

"It can't just be a matter of socking it to people who drive their car to or from work or to get to the doctor."

Looking for credit for Muskrat Falls

Ball also said the province is pushing to get credit for the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions that will come from building the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric facility.

"I'm always going to be looking for recognition for the investments that we make as a province and the role that we play in greenhouse gas emissions and how that fits into a carbon pricing model," said Ball.

"If we are 98 per cent green and doing our part, what recognition do we get for that? And how does it fit into a carbon pricing model?"

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Peter Cowan

CBC News

Peter Cowan is a St. John's-based reporter with CBC News.

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