The House

The fine print of Canada's new climate change deal

This week on The House, what did Justin Trudeau and the country's premiers manage to agree on when it comes to fighting climate change? Will it allow Canada to meet its Paris Accord commitments? We talk to federal Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna, British Columbia Premier Christy Clark, Manitoba's Brian Pallister, Kathleen Wynne of Ontario, and Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil.
Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister, centre, talks as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, left to right, Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil, Prince Edward Island Premier Wade MacLauchlan and Alberta Premier Rachel Notley look on during the closing press conference of the Meeting of First Ministers and National Indigenous Leaders in Ottawa on Friday. Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall and Pallister did not sign the pan-Canadian climate framework. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)
Listen to the full episode49:59

It's called the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change, but after a day of negotiations the Liberal government's national plan to fight climate change and meet the country's 2030 emissions reduction targets doesn't have pan-Canadian agreement.

The glaring discord: Saskatchewan and Manitoba both left their signatures off, citing different reasons.

But there are even disagreements amongst the provinces who signed on to the framework.

British Columbia Premier Christy Clark, who at one point on Friday resisted the deal, said B.C. signed on only after receiving assurances the provinces' various carbon-pricing plans were equitable.

Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall gestures past B.C. Premier Christy Clark during the closing news conference at the First Ministers Meeting in Ottawa, Friday. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

Clark also said the framework includes a mechanism allowing her province to forgo a $10 increase in carbon pricing once the rest of the country catches up with B.C. in 2020.

B.C. Premier Christy Clark explains why she changed her mind at the 11th hour and decided to join the new Canadian climate change framework. 7:40

"Maybe it's an increase but we're not going to have that forced on us by the federal government," she said.

But Environment Minister Catherine McKenna disputes that.

Indigenous and Northern Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett looks on as Minister of Environment and Climate Change Catherine McKenna, right, responds to a question during a media availability at the First Ministers' Meeting in Ottawa. (The Canadian Press)

"In 2020 there will be a review to look at comparability to make sure that everyone is doing their fair share... But we have been very clear, the prime minister has been very clear, that we have a system where the price increases," she said.

"Maybe what she's trying to say is that the federal government can do whatever it wants," Clark added. "There will be arguments on either side of the constitutional court around that.. But it's irrelevant for British Columbia, we are going to stay in the lead."

Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna explains how the climate change plan was reached. 8:05

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne supports the federal government's plan, but disagreed with Clark's assessment that British Columbians will pay more under the climate change plan than Ontarians.

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne takes part in the Meeting of First Ministers. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

The EcoFiscal Commission, a group of Canadian economists who study carbon pricing, estimates Ontario's plan will have a price of roughly $19.40 per tonne by 2020 — lower than B.C.'s existing $30-a-tonne carbon tax.

Wynne said it's a "red herring" to focus solely on the dollar amount of a province's carbon price.

The Premier of Ontario talks about the significance of the national plan to fight climate change. 3:14

"You know, you might have heard about this: electricity prices are higher because we have shut down the coal-fired plants, because we jump-started a renewable energy. There are inherent costs in a capping of emissions from businesses," she told host Chris Hall.

At the meeting's closing press conference Friday, Saskatchewan's Brad Wall said it would be foolish to impose a levy with the arrival of president-elect Donald Trump.

Wynne, whose province's cap-and-trade system is linking to California in the new year, disagrees.

"We have a responsibility to work with the rest of the globe. I mean there are jurisdictions all over the world who are tackling climate change," she said. "Subnationals, so states, provinces, have taken the lead on tackling climate change. That's not going to change no matter who the president of the United States is."

While Wall has steadfastly opposed any sort of carbon pricing, Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister refused to sign the framework for other reasons.

Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister listens to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's opening remarks at the Meeting of First Ministers in Ottawa on Friday. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

The Progressive Conservative premier said his first priority is convincing Ottawa to increase the health escalator.

"I've used my opportunity here to make sure that we make progress on this file because we are in the midst of budget preparations all over the country and of course health care is the major part of our budget," he explained.

"I'm discouraged I must say by the relative intransigence of the federal government on this front. We've had months and months of requests and they've been sitting there."

The Premier of Manitoba explains why his concerns over health care spending convinced him not to take part yet in the national climate change framework. 4:50

The premiers did talk about health over a working dinner with the prime minister on Friday.

The rate at which health transfers increase is set to decline next year to three per cent a year, from six per cent. But the Liberals have been promising to spend $3 billion over four years on home care and have said that better mental health care is a priority.

Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil said some of the ads will focus on the Liberal position, and others on government policy. (Canadian Press)

Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil said his province is open to targeted money, especially in fields like mental health.

"I don't think we should just step back because there's been a simple protocol in the country that the federal government just hands over money and the provinces spend it," he said.

"Mental health is an issue in every province and the fact that the federal government is now actually talking about mental health in a way that we're going to target a certain amount of funding for it should be good news for Canadians."

The Premier of Nova Scotia explains where health care talks are heading following the premiers working dinner with the Prime Minister. 5:52

John McCallum says government continue to convince Canadians to embrace refugees

John McCallum, right, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, helps Syrian refugee Ramez with his glove at Pearson International Airport in Toronto on Monday, February 29, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette (Nathan Denette/Canadian Press)

The man tasked with bringing thousands of Syrian refugees to Canada says that while most Canadians were quick to embrace them, his government still "has to work very hard" to convince some people to embrace these new arrivals.

"Canadians are not 100 per cent different from Americans, from British. We have to understand these concerns," said Immigration Minister John McCallum.

He made the comment while answering a question about the anti-globalization sentiments that surfaced during the U.K.'s Brexit vote in June and the campaign for the U.S. election in November.

Saturday marks the one-year anniversary of the first planeload of Syrian refugees landing in Canada.

The scene of Syrians of all ages arriving in Canada garnered international attention when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau went to Toronto's Pearson airport to welcome them himself.

But not everyone is ready to embrace refugee families — a quick peruse of the online comment section of any refugee-related story will illustrate that.

"That is why, for example, I was always absolutely determined not to treat refugees better than Canadians, not to put them in the front of a queue for social housing. We have to convince Canadians, I think we can, that it's for the good of the Canadian economy," McCallum told CBC host Chris Hall on The House.

"Given the global context, we have to work very hard to ensure that that is true and to ensure that message gets out clearly."

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Minister John McCallum discusses his biggest file since coming into office. 13:16

What's next for electoral reform?

Members of the House of Commons special committe on electoral reform speak at a press conference. The committee is recommending that the Trudeau government design a new proportional voting system and hold a national referendum to gauge how much Canadians would support it. (Fred Chartrand/The Canadian Press)

The two vice-chairs of the House of Commons special committee on electoral reform are pushing the Liberal government to consult them before introducing any legislation this spring.

Despite recent controversies around the committee's report and the survey, Minister of Democratic Institutions Mayam Monsef has said the government's goal is still to implement a new voting system for 2019 if broad support is found.

"If you want to work on a bill, let's do it together," NDP MP Nathan Cullen told Mark Holland, parliamentary secretary to the minister of democratic institutions, on The House mid-week podcast.

"But don't craft legislation based on some vague survey that has been discredited and then say, 'Here it is House of Commons. This is what we decided based on our interpretation.' Which I think is the point."

The special committee's majority report proposed that the current first-past-the-post system be pitted against a proportional representation option, though the New Democrats and Greens suggested a referendum might not be necessary and no agreement was reached on a specific proposal for a new system.

Holding a copy of the Report of the House of Commons Special Committee on Electoral Reform, Conservative Interim Leader Rona Ambrose talks to reporters outside the House of Commons after Question Period on Parliament Hill, in Ottawa, Thursday, December 1, 2016. (Fred Chartrand/The Canadian Press)

Holland says he'll willing to meet with the committee, but Cullen pushed for more than just that.

"We've had meetings where nothing happens. I want to have a meeting where you actually sit down with paper and start to say, 'Here are the elements of a legislative bill to fulfil the prime minister's commitment. Let's work together on it. Don't tell me about meetings and cups of coffee," he said.

Conservative MP Scott Reid says the Opposition will be upset if the government brings them anything that doesn't include what their committee recommended.

"That's what we're interested in hearing about. If you've got something else in mind then you're not working with us," he said in a heated panel discussion. "In the end it's either a yes or a no."

"The government has this absurd position where they say things like, the prime minister has a preferred system, the minister has a preferred system. We're not going to share it with you, it's a big secret. How on earth can we guess what happens now?"

Holland says the Liberals will disclose their preferred system once the survey period ends at the end of December.

"But for us to proclaim ourselves in the middle of a public engagement would negate the public engagement," he said.

Conservative Scott Reid, NDP MP Nathan Cullen and Mark Holland, the parliamentary secretary to the minister of democratic institutions, discuss the controversy surrounding "" and the future of electoral reform. 21:04

Rona Ambrose to Justin Trudeau: 'Park' electoral reform

The interim leader of the Conservative Party has two simple words for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau when it comes to electoral reform: park it.

"He's made an absolute mess of this file. It's so chaotic, disorganized, and now we have a situation with this website. It's been mocked. It's a joke," Rona Ambrose told CBC radio's The House in a year-ender interview.

"I actually think they need to park this. They need to park it and set this issue aside and start to focus on other issues like job creation and the fact that we have high unemployment."

The interim leader of the Conservative Party has two simple words for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau when it comes to electoral reform: park it. 2:39