Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne said Friday she’s used to hearing “howls” of people who are opposed to taking action on climate change, but admitted she’d have a hard time working with Alberta’s opposition.
She made the comments after the Wildrose publicly ridiculed her during her trip to the provincial legislature the day before. She said if the Wildrose Party was ever in power, she’d find it “extremely difficult” to work with them on climate change, calling them “out of step” with reality.
“The howls that were coming across the floor at the premier of Alberta are the same howls that come across the floor to me in Ontario, because there are people who don’t want to tackle the tough reality that we’ve got to—we’ve got to take action on climate change,” she said during a trip to visit political and business leaders in Calgary.
Watch below: Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne responds to climate change critics.
She went on to take a small jab at the Wildrose party, whose finance critic Derek Fildebrandt had shouted “Invite Premier Wall here!” on Thursday, asking why Wynne, a Liberal, was invited while right-centrist and next-door-neighbour Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall was not.
Fildebrandt also labelled Ontario’s greenhouse gas emissions plan a failure, suggesting it’s led to “skyrocketing power bills… and auditor general reports into billions of wasted tax dollars.”
Watch below: Ontario’s premier was in the Alberta legislature when the opposition and Premier Rachel Notley sparred over Ontario’s climate plan and even Wynne’s visit.
Wynne suggested Ontario plays a better host to visiting leaders.
“I will just say that visiting dignitaries from anywhere—across the country or otherwise—when they come to Ontario, they’re received by all parties with grace. So I’m quite sure that if I were to go again to the legislature, it would be different.”
She acknowledged it’s the job of opposition parties to challenge the government and come up with alternate proposals, but would find it hard to work with “denial” of climate change.
“That would be extremely difficult. I will just say, that kind of attitude in Canada right now is completely out of step with the national stance,” she said. “To have a philosophy that says ‘we don’t have to take action’ would be extremely difficult and would be out of step with the realities that we’re confronting.”
The Wildrose Party later said Leader Brian Jean had signed off on the comments criticizing Wynne, but the plan was to say them thinking she would not be in the gallery. Nathan Cooper said the party never intended to embarrass Wynne or Alberta Premier Rachel Notley, but added things just got out of hand.
Speaking at the Liberal party’s convention in Winnipeg on Saturday, Wynne said she accepts the apology and suggested she believes she was treated the way she was, at least in part, because she is a woman.
“I think it was an interesting confluence of things,” Wynne said. “It was a woman premier in Alberta – I’m there as a woman – we’re talking about climate change and I think the attack – the viciousness of the attack – had a particular quality to it. So I will just say we need to pay attention to that. ”
Watch below: Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne reacts to her treatment in Alberta’s legislature on Friday.
On Friday, Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi apologized to Wynne for the way she was treated after he led her on a tour of the General Electric Customer Innovation centre in the city’s southwest.
Nenshi said he was shocked by the behaviour, which he called childish and petulant, and apologized on behalf of Calgarians.
He said Albertans are more polite than that and added people need to show common courtesy regardless of politics, especially if they want to be leaders.
During her trip, Wynne took part in a roundtable discussion with members of the Calgary Chamber of Commerce at the Hyatt Regency Hotel before delivering a keynote address.
She said they discussed how Ontario and Alberta need to work together as leaders in the country.
When asked about Energy East, Wynne said Alberta has Ontario’s “practical support” as long as certain conditions are met.
“Things like paying attention to the highest safety standards, using the technology that is most secure and safe, consulting with and working with communities, including First Nations communities, and understanding impacts on climate change,” she said. “I think people in Ontario and people in Alberta would agree…those are principles that make sense.”
Watch below: Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne responds to questions about shutting down coal power.
Wynne also denied reports Ontario would be scrapping a phase-out of natural gas for home heating as part of its climate change plan.
“In fact we are expanding the use of natural gas into rural and northern communities. That’s part of our long-term energy plan,” she said. “The reports that said we were banning natural gas in Ontario were wrong; they were not true. That has never been our position.”
On Thursday, Wynne met with Notley while in Edmonton, where the two signed an agreement to develop clean technologies to fight climate change.
When asked her advice on how to phase out coal plants, Wynne said the most important thing is to keep people informed.
“As the coal plants are shut down and as new generation comes online—whatever that new, renewable energy is—just make sure people know what the plan is…and that is a community-by-community challenge,” she said. “They need to understand why the action is being taken and then I think there will be a lot of support for taking that action.”
Watch below: Ontario’s premier visited the Alberta legislature, but some sparring during Question Period may have made it an awkward visit for her. Tom Vernon explains.
With files from The Canadian Press