Environment Minister Catherine McKenna met with Atlantic environment ministers on Tuesday in Halifax to discuss priorities for the region.
The meeting was designed to advance the federal-provincial commitments under the Vancouver Declaration and address the unique environmental and economic needs in Atlantic Canada.
McKenna, along with Nova Scotia’s Environment Minister Margaret Miller, New Brunswick’s Serge Rousselle, Prince Edward Island’s Robert Mitchell and Newfoundland and Labrador’s Perry Trimper announced they are working together to accelerate the transition to a clean electricity future in Atlantic Canada.
“The Government of Canada and the Atlantic provinces are focused on growing the economy, encouraging innovation and creating jobs while at the same time tackling climate change and protecting our environment,” said McKenna in a statement to reporters.
“This is why we are committed to working together to build a clean electricity future for the region and to adapt to the risks of climate change impacts, particularly as coastal provinces.”
McKenna said a national price on carbon is needed to ensure the country is moving in the right direction when it comes to reducing emissions.
“The intent on a price on carbon is to send a market signal that we want to reduce emissions, that there is a price to be paid if you pollute and you pay less if you pollute less,” she said. “Right now we have a situation where there’s free-riding, where there’s polluting and we’re not going in the right direction. We’re not causing the innovation we need.”
She also addressed the importance of having flexibility for provinces and territories when it comes to the impending tax.
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“Ministers recognized the diversity of the provincial economies and the importance of ensuring that provinces have the flexibility to design their own broad range of policies, including carbon pricing mechanisms to meet emission reduction targets,” she said.
McKenna’s provincial counterparts expressed the same concern surrounding identifying opportunities to reduce emissions in Atlantic Canada.
“It’s important to stress that New Brunswick is a diverse and unique economy,” said Rousselle. “The province must have the flexibility to develop our own policies to meet emission reduction targets.”
Miller said Nova Scotia is already showing a 17 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and is on track for 40 per cent renewables by 2020. She wants to ensure the work already being done in Nova Scotia is considered when moving forward.
“We have wind energy and now we have tidal energy,” said Miller. “We have a lot of things moving forward that we’re really happy with. Things that really, Nova Scotians have already been paying for through their electricity costs.”
Nova Scotia signed an equivelancy agreement in 2012 under the previous government which exempted the province from federal timelines to close coal-fired electricity plants as long as they committed to reduce greenhouse emissions by 25 per cent by 2020.
McKenna will wrap up her visit to Nova Scotia on Wednesday. She said the pan-Canadian framework on clean growth and climate change is set to be finalized by First Ministers this fall.