Provinces to set 'more ambitious' climate change targets, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne says

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne says she believes that Ottawa and the provinces will move toward setting new countrywide carbon emissions goals when the premiers and the new prime minister meet Monday.

First time Canada's premiers to meet with prime minister as a group since 2009

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will meet with Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne and the other provincial premiers Monday to discuss climate change action. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne says she believes Ottawa and the provinces will set 'ambitious' new countrywide carbon emission goals after the premiers meet with the prime minister Monday.

The meeting comes a week before the international climate change conference in Paris where world leaders are expected to commit to reducing their carbon-based energy demands.

"I don't think we'll even necessarily have numbers set before Paris, but I believe that this conference and the aftermath of the [Paris] conference will lead to a more ambitious target," Wynne told CBC's The House.

The meeting between Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and provincial leaders marks a significant shift from his predecessor, who last sat down with all the premiers together in 2009.

Stephen Harper, instead, preferred to meet with the heads of provinces one-on-one.

Stronger partnership

Provincial and territorial environment ministers have already met in advance of today's meeting, including Ontario Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Glen Murray. 

"There's been more discussion amongst environment ministers about climate change in a blink than there has been in the last 10 years of the previous government," said Murray in an interview with Metro Morning on Monday. "What's changed is there is an openness to working together." 

For the past decade, Murray said environment ministers have been discouraged from discussing climate change as something the federal and provincial governments would work together on.

That appears to be changing now, Murray said, and Ontario enters the new discussions in a position of strength.

"Our track record is good. Quebec's track record is good and we have stronger partnerships with the bigger carbon market now," said Murray. "So we've got a lot more fuel in the tank, if you can appreciate the pun."

Wynne said she's hopeful that the upcoming meeting will also mark a stronger partnership between Ottawa and the provinces.

Pundits had long commented on the chilly relationship between Harper and Wynne, quite the foil to the connection she's already courted with the new prime minister.

Trudeau has indicated he not only wants to work with the provinces on climate change, but he told The Canadian Press he wants to create a federal blueprint on emissions targets before he leaves for the international summit.

While Wynne said she's unsure all parties will have signed off on those goals by then, she said she believes Monday's meeting will be the beginning of a more aggressive national plan.

"Until now, the ambition of the federal government has just been the sum of what the provinces are doing," she said. "But I think that work the federal government can do, investments that the federal government can make, will actually make us more ambitious."

Wynne would not tell CBC News what she might ask of Trudeau, in either funding or infrastructure, but she did say that knowing what Ottawa is willing to invest in will help the provinces in setting — and meeting — their climate change targets.

Ontario committed in April to implement a cap and trade system, following Quebec's example. The specifics of that have not yet been released.

British Columbia, meanwhile, already has a carbon tax in place — and once all three provinces' programs are running, about 70 per cent of Canada's population will be operating under carbon pricing, Wynne said.

Alberta announces carbon tax

That does not include Alberta, where Premier Rachel Notley announced Sunday that the province would impose a $20 per tonne carbon tax by January 2017. The following year, the province would bump that up to $30 per tonne, Notley told reporters.

Wynne congratulated Alberta on its progress in a media release Sunday.

"The united Canadian voice is one that is taking the swift and meaningful actions needed to fight climate change," Wynne said in the release.

The United Nations climate conference begins Nov. 30.


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