Trudeau, premiers meet in Vancouver as views on climate plan diverge

Justin Trudeau started his day touting Canada's plans to lower greenhouse gas emissions at a clean technology conference in B.C. But when he moves on to meeting with the premiers, the difficulties of making that transition set in.

Energy East, carbon pricing and green infrastructure dominate talk on eve of first ministers meeting

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, looks on as Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Dwight Ball, right, chairs a meeting of the Council of the Federation in Vancouver on Wednesday. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

Justin Trudeau started his day touting Canada's plans to lower greenhouse gas emissions at a clean technology conference in B.C.

But when he moves on to meeting with the premiers, the difficulties of making that transition set in.

The prime minister addressed the opening plenary session of the Globe clean tech conference in Vancouver alongside B.C. Premier Christy Clark, where they sang the gospel of environmental innovation and the global investment and job opportunities that come with it.

​Trudeau announced more than $125 million for two new clean tech funds in an effort to spur faster industry growth.

The Federation of Canadian Municipalities is getting $75 million from Infrastructure Canada for climate change initiatives in communities, he announced during his speech.

The federal government is also spending more than $50 million "to improve climate resilience in design guides, and building and infrastructure codes." 

The new funding is for the 2016-17 fiscal year.

Trudeau used his speech to the conference to talk about the ties between environmental and economic prosperity, as he did the previous day.

"Canadians have made some strides already, but we have a lot of work to do to become the global leaders we ought to be," he said.

"Last year, for example, was the most successful year ever for renewable energy investment, with almost $350 billion invested worldwide. Nearly half of that was invested in the U.S. and China alone. But on that measure, Canada has fallen behind."

It's the optimistic and widely appealing upside of the global low-carbon transition that 195 countries signed on to in Paris at COP21, the United Nations climate conference in December.

But the difficult, fractious and immediate realities of that transition appear likely to intrude before Trudeau's day is over.

Premiers from all 13 provinces and territories, along with indigenous leaders, are in Vancouver today and Thursday to begin hammering together a pan-Canada climate policy framework.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau leaves a media availability at the GLOBE clean technology conference in Vancouver, B.C., Wednesday, March. 2, 2016. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

There are more than a few bruised thumbs and discordant notes already.

Indigenous groups have complained the invitation list was not wide enough, while Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall has levelled a series of broadsides at the federal Liberals' promised carbon pricing.

When asked about potential tensions Wednesday, Trudeau responded the first ministers meeting hadn't happened yet and he was looking forward to having "positive announcements" to make on Thursday evening after they're done.

"I expect that premiers and indeed all representatives are going to do the job they were elected to do, which is to stand up for their communities, stand up for their regions and ensure that we are working together in ways that grow the economy right across the country while protecting the environment," he said.

"There is little substitute for sitting down together and actually rolling up our sleeves and working together and that's exactly what we're going to be doing for the next day and a half."

Trudeau says Premiers need to roll up sleeves and work together

8 years ago
Duration 2:10
Featured VideoPrime Minister Justin Trudeau addresses reporters prior to the First Minister climate change meeting in Vancouver.

Injunction bid 'unfortunate coincidence'

Quebec has also managed to inflame much of Western Canada — again — with an ill-timed court intervention in the contentious Energy East pipeline project.

Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard took pains again Wednesday to assure reporters in Vancouver that his province really wasn't joining the court fight to shut down the $15.7-billion project, but was only attempting to assert provincial environmental jurisdiction.

"The Quebec segment of the project is entirely new infrastructure that will be going through heavily populated areas of Quebec," he said.

"[The pipeline will pass through] dozens of communities and more than 700 streams and rivers. I know of no jurisdiction in the world where significant concerns would not be raised."

​On Tuesday, Couillard described the timing of the court intervention on the eve of the premiers meeting with Trudeau to discuss climate policy as an "unfortunate coincidence."

By then, Wall — who is seeking re-election in Saskatchewan in just more than a month — had already sounded off.

"Why slap an injunction against [Energy East] except if it is about environmental politics, and I think it is going to be divisive," said Wall.

Rachel Notley, the Alberta premier who doesn't face the electorate this spring, was somewhat more restrained but still fired a rhetorical warning shot, saying she plans to "leave the gun in the holster until we are actually at the gunfight, and we are not there right now."

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne urged her colleagues to work together for the good of the economy.

"We are a small country in terms of population. We've got a huge geography, but we have a small population. So if we are going to punch above our weight, which I believe we do on the international stage, we need to all be working together," she said.

After afternoon premiers meetings, Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Dwight Ball said the leaders are united against the idea of one carbon price strategy for the entire country.

"We want to make sure that as provincial leaders, we have the flexibility to design our own carbon footprint in our own province so we get to the objective of the carbon reduction that we need nationally," he said.

Ball said the premiers had been invited to a meeting with Trudeau and indigenous leaders later in the day.

Wall says not the time for a national carbon tax

8 years ago
Duration 3:15
Featured VideoSaskatchewan Premier Brad Wall defends his position not to introduce a national carbon tax, as well as the proposed energy east pipeline.

Business more proactive?

The key to bringing the fractious premiers together might be foreshadowed by Trudeau's Globe conference appearance: Talk up the economic opportunities and bring a cheque book.

For the investors, inventors, entrepreneurs, corporate leaders and non-governmental organizations from some 50 countries attending the biennial Globe conference, going green has taken on a market-oriented hue.

Many participants at last year's Paris climate conference commented on the almost trade show-like atmosphere of the gathering.

"It was a different COP than any of the other COPs I've been to," said Mike Gerbis, the president of Globe foundation.

"Business was around there wanting to take action, rather than trying to stifle the negotiations."

This week, Trudeau received some unsolicited advice from 50 B.C. clean tech industry executives, who wrote an open letter touting the estimated $1 trillion in global investment that is anticipated from the low-carbon transition.

"The only question is whether Canada will be a buyer or a seller," wrote the executives.

With files from CBC News