Politics

Charest: Prentice bowing to U.S. on climate change

Quebec Premier Jean Charest accused the federal government on Wednesday of having few ideas to fight climate change beyond kowtowing to the United States, and bristled at criticism of Quebec's environmental efforts by federal Environment Minister Jim Prentice.

Quebec Premier Jean Charest accused the federal government on Wednesday of having few ideas to fight climate change beyond kowtowing to the United States.

"The only federal plan is to align with the United States," Charest said in the latest round of sniping between Quebec and Ottawa over the environment.

"However, I never in my life thought that aligning our policies with the United States was good enough for Canada."

Charest, in India on a trade mission, was bristling at criticism of Quebec's environmental efforts by federal Environment Minister Jim Prentice.

The premier said Prentice showed his ignorance when he accused Quebec on Monday of being reckless in imposing heavy fines against the owners of cars that don't meet new emission restrictions.

Prentice told a Calgary audience that Quebec's efforts were "folly."

But Charest said Prentice was wrong when he said consumers would be hit with $5,000 fines if their cars did not meet emission standards. And the premier pointed out that 14 American states have adopted similar legislation.

The Quebec law, which was adopted last month, says large automakers could face fines of up to $5,000 for each car sold that does not respect the new standard for greenhouse gas emissions.

The legislation, which goes into effect in 2016, applies to cars starting with the 2010 model year.

Charest said the basic problem in the fight against climate change is the absence of initiatives by the federal Conservatives except for following the Americans.

The premier said it is ridiculous to criticize Quebec when no Canadian plan has been devised.

Prentice 'endorsing' auto industry arguments: Que. minister

Charest's response to Prentice followed one on Tuesday by Quebec Environment Minister Line Beauchamp, who accused her federal counterpart of being a stooge of the auto industry.

"He's endorsing arguments advanced by automobile manufacturers and that discourages me," she said in an interview with The Canadian Press.

Environmental policy differences between Quebec's Liberal government and the Tories in Ottawa have produced a number of confrontations over the past several months.

In December, Charest travelled to the Copenhagen climate summit, where he warned the federal government that Quebec would not sit idly by if Ottawa failed to set more ambitious targets for reducing emissions.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper charged Charest was wrong to air a domestic dispute on the international stage.

At a spending announcement in Quebec last month, Charest refused to back down from his comments, even though Harper was standing next to him.