The House

Ottawa's big test: energy politics

This week on The House, the new era of federal-provincial relations is about to be tested on two crucial fronts: climate change and health care. We talk to Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr, Alberta Premier Rachel Notley, Ontario's Kathleen Wynne and Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil.
Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr is the federal government's point-person when it comes to pipelines. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr is dispelling the idea that all Indigenous groups in Canada are united against pipelines after a group of First Nations in Canada and the United States signed a treaty opposing new projects.

"If you put the mayors of major cities in British Columbia and Alberta in a room you'd probably not get consensus and you'd certainly not get unity. If you put the premiers in a room talking about these energy projects there would be a difference of opinion. So too, no doubt, there will be a difference of opinion in Indigenous communities," Jim Carr told The House.

On Thursday, 50 North America First Nations signed the Treaty Alliance Against Tar Sands Expansion to oppose building more pipelines to carry crude from Alberta's oil sands. The targets include files Carr's offices is reviewing, including pipelines proposed by Kinder Morgan Inc, TransCanada Corp and Enbridge Inc.

Carr says there are other Indigenous communities "who have spotted opportunity" in natural resource development.

The federal government has several key decisions to make regarding pipeline projects. Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr joins us to explain what his government is planing.

Rachel Notley not concerned over NEB setbacks

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley is now waiting for the federal government to make several key pipeline decisions. (Codie McLachlan/Canadian Press)

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley says the fact that three members of the National Energy Board's panel on the proposed Energy East pipeline stepped down amid protests and controversy shows the process is credible.

The members' decision to step down came amid reports two of them met with former Quebec premier Jean Charest while he was working for TransCanada, the company heading the Energy East project.

"Yes, it delays the process but it means they're being responsive. And I think that if we are going to have a process that maintains its credibility and withstands scrutiny once a decision is ultimately made then where concerns are raised about the credibility of the process, you need to give them genuine attention," she told The House

"What you're seeing is a more generalized interest in ensuring the process is transparent and respects the rule of law." 

Notley, whose province stands to gain economically if TransMountain, Northern Gateway and the Energy East pipeline projects are approved, says just because some groups strongly oppose pipelines doesn't mean she'll stop trying to sell their merits.

"Those players in our political system who suggest that, 'Oh well you introduced your climate change leadership plan at this point and everybody hasn't completely changed their mind on this matter the next day,' are, I think, playing politics and not understanding the way these kinds of conversations rollout in a country as complicated and democratic and ours," she told The House.

Alberta premier Rachel Notley talks about her approach to the pipeline debate.

Kathleen Wynne concerned how tightly health accord 'strings are tied'

Premier Kathleen Wynne is ready for strings to be attached to the next round of health care federal dollars... up to a point. (David Donnelly/CBC)

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne says she's not opposed to the government attaching strings to new funding in the forthcoming health care accord, it just depends on how restrictive they are.

​Targeted funding, an idea floated by federal Health Minister Jane Philpott, could act as a stumbling block in the new multi-year health accord negotiations as some provinces try to hold on to their autonomy.

"There is a basket of issues that we need to be able to agree on and so having a reasonable expectation that increases would go into those areas I think is absolutely acceptable, but it's going to depend on exactly how tightly those strings are tied," Wynne told The House.

During the premiers' meeting in the Yukon this summer, British Columbia Premier Christy Clark was open to the federal government identifying a specific use for additional funding, but Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard heartily disagrees.

"We know what to do. We know what should be done. We need the means to do it better," he said.

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne discusses ongoing climate change and health negotiations.

McNeil looking for "Nova Scotia" solution on climate change

How far is Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil willing to go to fight the idea of a national price on carbon? (Andrew Vaughan/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

While he's already voiced his opposition to a national carbon tax before, Nova Scotia premier Stephen McNeil is "encouraged" with the way discussions with Ottawa have been unfolding.

McNeil's concerns come from the fact that Nova Scotia has met the federal government's goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 30 per cent of 2005 levels before the 2030 deadline. That is ahead of any other province. 

"We've done a lot of work ourselves and we expect that to be recognized," he told The House.

"We're prepared to work with them to find a Nova Scotia solution that they can live me," he said. "We're still having conversations about it, I've been encouraged by it."

Nova Scotia premier Stephen McNeil says he's 'encouraged' by the discussions he's having with Ottawa on crafting a climate change plan.

In House panel: The Liberals' expenses problem

Gerald Butts and Katie Telford, senior staff in the Prime Minister's Office, said they will repay more than $44,000 in moving expenses in a statement issued Thursday Sept. 22, 2016 that provided a breakdown of taxpayer-reimbursed expenses. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

The Conservatives came back to Parliament Hill this week ready to hammer the government over some of their expenses.

One of the results was that two of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's most trusted advisers are repaying more than $65,000 in "unreasonable" expenses after the Liberal government controversially approved $207,052.11 to cover the cost of moving the pair from Toronto to Ottawa. 

In House panelists Susan Delacourt and Joël-Denis Bellavance discuss how the Liberals have been handling the controversy.

Susan Delacourt and Joel-Denis Bellavance assess how the Liberals have been handling questions about some of their expenses.