Trudeau, premiers meet in Ottawa today to craft climate deal

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Canada’s first ministers are finalizing the details of a national climate change strategy to be announced at a high-level meeting in Ottawa today, but Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall has made it clear he won’t sign on to make it unanimous.

Sources familiar with the negotiations have confirmed the premiers and the prime minister will sell it as “an ambitious and achievable plan” to address climate change.

They will also stress that the deal will include enough flexibility to allow provincial and territorial governments to limit the impact carbon pricing will have on their economies.

The agreement is called the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden addressed the group shortly after 10 a.m. ET to kick off today’s meetings.

The final agreement will include a long list of already announced measures to battle climate change. They will includenew building codes to boost energy efficiency, more charging stations for electric cars, and expanding clean electricity sources and upgrading power grids.

But before the meeting even began, Wall blasted the federal government’s approach, which he said “unilaterally” laid down a carbon price scheme without the benefits of “due diligence” or an impact assessment.

“We’re about to undertake the biggest change to how Canadians tax their economy and Canadian families and there has been no economic impact assessment. I’m really worried about the competitiveness of the country,” he said. “We will not be signing the framework today, for those and other reasons.”

Trudeau announced in October the federal government will set a national “floor price” on carbon that all provinces must levy on emissions, a move that would force the nine provinces and territories that do not already have a pricing mechanism to act.

Wall said Friday he is reviewing his legal options to block the imposition of a national price on his province.

“We’ll probably see them in court,” he told reporters on his way into the talks.

Push for fairness

B.C. Premier Christy Clark remained optimistic there would be a deal, but insisted it must be a fair one for all provinces so residents in the West aren’t paying more than residents of Ontario or Quebec.

“If the issue is do we want to have a national tax, let’s make sure that every Canadian is paying the same amount, regardless of where they live, that no province can walk away with an incredible deal at the expense of everybody else,” she said.

But Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne said the focus must be on achieving greenhouse gas emissions cuts in “absolute” terms, not on how each province meets their own targets. Ontario’s cap-and-trade system, investments in renewable energy and closure of coal-fired electricity plants are making inroads at a cost to Ontario residents, she said.

“People in Ontario ar already paying a price,” she said. “This whole conversation is about reducing greenhouse gas emissions and we each have to find a way in our provinces to do that.”

Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard was attending the last day of the National Assembly’s fall sitting in Quebec City and was expected to arrive in Ottawa for talks in the afternoon. His environment minister was representing Quebec at the table Friday morning.

Trudeau signed the Paris agreement on climate change in April. It commits Canada to a 30 per cent reduction in greenhouse gases from 2005 levels by 2030— the same goal proposed by the previous Conservative government.

“We will show how we’re going to meet our 2030 targets — what measures we’ve taken, what additional measures we will be taking to meet the target,” Environment Minister Catherine McKenna said in an interview with CBC News.

Roughly 85 per cent of Canadians already live in a jurisdiction that has a price on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions — programs in B.C. and Quebec are already up and running, with Alberta and Ontario to follow in January 2017.

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau welcomes U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden to Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Friday. Biden later addressed the First Ministers Meeting. (Patrick Doyle/Canadian Press)

The first ministers were also meeting with Biden for a discussion on Canada-U.S. relations, just weeks before he is set to leave office.

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Trudeau, premiers meet in Ottawa today to craft climate deal

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