Sask. Premier Scott Moe 'disappointed' after meeting federal cabinet ministers

After the federal environment minister slammed "conservative politicians" for what she called their inaction on climate change, Saskatchewan's premier said putting a federal price on emissions will hurt his province and he'll fight any attempt to do so in court.

Moe says a federal carbon tax will 'pull a billion dollars' from province's economy

'I would say the ball is in the prime minster and the federal government's court,' on the issue of a federal carbon tax, Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe said after meeting Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and other members of the Liberal caucus on Wednesday. (Radio-Canada)

Saskatchewan's premier said he was "disappointed" after meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and other members of the federal Liberal caucus in Saskatoon on Wednesday, where they discussed the contentious issue of the federal carbon tax.

"It's no secret we've had a frosty relationship," said Scott Moe. "I would say the ball is in the prime minister and the federal government's court."

Moe insisted his Saskatchewan Party government's plan to increase carbon sequestration and cut pollution is the right move for Saskatchewan, as opposed to the federal government's call for a carbon tax.

Two hours earlier, federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna — in Saskatoon along with other Liberal MPs for a caucus retreat — made it clear her government disagreed.

'We will have to step in'

"It's unfortunate that there are conservative politicians that have no plan to tackle climate change and have no plan to grow a clean economy," McKenna told reporters.

She said neither Ontario nor Saskatchewan, both of which have expressed opposition to the federal carbon tax plan, has put forward a credible emissions reduction plan.

'If provinces don't take serious climate action, if they don't recognize the cost of pollution … we will have to step in,' said federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna. (CBC)

"You can do both.… You can tackle climate change and you can grow a clean economy," McKenna said.

"And you can create good jobs. Or, I guess if you're a conservative politician, you can do neither."

McKenna said her government will impose its own carbon pricing scheme on both provinces starting Jan. 1, 2019. It sets a starting price of $20 per tonne of carbon dioxide emissions in 2019, escalating to $50 per tonne in 2022.

"If provinces don't take serious climate action, if they don't recognize the cost of pollution … we will have to step in and we will return the revenues to individuals directly," McKenna said.

She would not say how her government plans to impose a tax on Ontario and Saskatchewan, which have a combined population of roughly 14.5 million.

Carbon tax 'ineffective': Moe

Saskatchewan's premier said such a move would "pull a billion dollars" from the province's mining- and oil-reliant economy.

"To be honest, there's a fork in the road," said Moe, who said mining and oil industries would face unfair competition from companies unfettered by carbon pricing schemes.

Moe called a carbon tax "ineffective," saying it only moves pollution to other parts of the world.

His government has asked the courts to rule on the legality of Ottawa imposing a carbon tax on the province.

Ministers talked taxes, trade

Wednesday's meeting at the Bessborough Hotel in Saskatoon included Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, federal Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale, Saskatchewan's education minister, Gord Wyant, and Saskatchewan's minister of export and trade development, Jeremy Harrison.

Moe said trade, transport and taxes and regulation are the biggest federal concerns for people in Saskatchewan, noting he supports federal NAFTA negotiators and hopes they will soon sign an updated agreement.

"We cannot move forward with a bad deal," said Moe. "I'm not certain we can move forward with no deal either."

He also spoke out against a bill that would scrap the National Energy Board and empower a new body to conduct consultation with groups affected by development — a move the Liberal government says would streamline the approval process for major natural resources projects.

Moe urged the federal government to repeal Bill C-69, in order to create "a positive regulatory environment."

With files from John Paul Tasker