Stephen Harper touts merits of Alberta's carbon pricing system

In a year-end interview with Peter Mansbridge, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has indicated for the first time a willingness to implement on a 'broader' scale a carbon pricing system similar to the one in Alberta.

Stephen Harper says Alberta's carbon pricing could 'go broader'

Prime Minister Stephen Harper offers his views in a year-end interview with CBC News chief correspondent Peter Mansbridge. (CBC)

Stephen Harper is still taking a hard line against introducing a "job-killing carbon tax," but in an interview with CBC News chief correspondent Peter Mansbridge, the prime minister has indicated for the first time a willingness to accept a price on greenhouse gas emissions.

Speaking favourably about the merits of Alberta's carbon-pricing system, Harper said it's a model that could be implemented on a "broader" scale.

"I think it's a model on which you could go... on which you could go broader."

The Alberta model imposes a price on emissions for companies that don't meet energy-efficiency targets. Those companies can also pay that money into a clean-energy research fund.

"It's not a levy, it's a price. And there's a tech fund in which… [the] private sector makes investments.

"So look, that's what Alberta has done. That's a model that's available. But you know, as I say, we're very open to see progress on this on a continental basis."

PM made news on several fronts:

  • On the easing of U.S.-Cuba relations: Harper said a warming of relations between the two countries was "overdue" and that he was pleased to see U.S. President Barack Obama thank Canada for its role in facilitating those discussions.
  • On the shooting events in Ottawa on Oct. 22: Harper refused to say whether he hid in a closet as was reported in the media. "My first responsibility is to extricate myself from such a situation, so I can continue the normal functions of government." Harper said the first person he called after the shooting incident was his mom, who had been watching the events unfold on TV.
  • On the Mike Duffy trial set to start on April 7: Harper said his lawyer told him there's no reason to believe he would be called to appear as a witness at the suspended senator's trial. "I have no knowledge of Mr. Duffy's activities. I'm not party to the matters he's been charged with."
  • On his government's handling of veterans affairs: "The fact of the matter is, this country has the best veterans programs and services in the world. They are services we have increased significantly." Asked whether he still had confidence in Veterans Affairs Minister Julian Fantino, Harper said "by definition, the prime minister has confidence in all of his ministers."
  • On the federal election set for Oct. 19, 2015: Harper said he has every intention of leading the Conservative Party into the next federal election, and dismissed rumours he'll call an early election. "I still love the job," he said.
  • On a public inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women: "It isn't high on our radar, to be honest."

Harper recently said that given the falling price of oil it would be "crazy economic policy" to introduce regulations in the oil-and-gas sector without similar commitments from other world emitters.

If others would just follow our lead, we'd have this problem solved.- Stephen Harper on Canada's sector-by-sector approach in reducing GHGs

Today, he remained adamant that Canada would not move in that direction without similar action from the U.S. and Mexico.

"What is crazy is for us to impose costs only on our industry in a way that would not reduce emissions but simply shift jobs and development to other parts of North America. That makes no sense," Harper said.

"We're seeking a continental response on this particular question. Not just with the United States. We'd like to see Mexico as well in it."

Harper told Mansbridge that climate change remains "a significant threat" to humanity — up there with "economic challenges" and the global threat of "jihadism."

He said Canada was phasing out the use of coal-fired electricity, which he described as the "the biggest single" source of greenhouse gas emissions in the world.

"If others would just follow our lead, we'd have this problem solved."

Watch Peter Mansbridge's full interview with Stephen Harper tonight onThe National, at 10 p.m. on CBC Television, on CBC News Network at 9 and 11 p.m. ET and on cbcnews.ca.