OTTAWA – Some last-minute megaphone diplomacy by B.C. Premier Christy Clark appears to have secured a deal on a pan-Canadian climate plan – but Saskatchewan remains outside the fold.
Moments after Clark emerged from a first ministers meeting with Justin Trudeau to publicly kneecap the prime minister’s signature climate plan, word emerged of a compromise.
Trudeau had unilaterally imposed an escalating floor price on carbon dioxide emissions, starting at $10 in 2018 and topping out at $50 in 2022, when the policy would be reassessed.
Under the compromise deal, the carbon price would pause at B.C.’s existing $30 level in 2020, when an independent expert panel will look at how the plan is evolving.
Federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna has already touted a “historic agreement” that includes 10 provinces and territories and three indigenous groups.
B.C.’s addition made it 11, with Saskatchewan clearly offside and Manitoba’s position not immediately clear.
It was a sudden and surprising about-face from Clark, who less than an hour earlier had was telling reporters that the talks were grinding along slowly, that the matter was hard slogging and that an agreement appeared a long way off.
Indeed, before talks even began, it was Clark herself who shoved a hockey stick in the Liberal spokes, citing the unresolved matter of comparing Quebec and Ontario’s cap-and-trade carbon market to a national floor price proposed for other provinces.
“It’s got to be a fair deal. And you have to have one price for all Canadians if it’s going to be a national price,” Clark – who faces the B.C. electorate in a May election – said earlier in the day.
The Prime Minister’s Office pointed to a Sept. 26 Facebook post on carbon pricing by the B.C. premier which breezily observed that “others may choose a broad-based cap-and-trade system – and that’s fine.”
The aggressive provincial positioning as the meeting got underway was met with polite federal obstinacy.
“We’ve been very clear that carbon pricing is part of the plan,” federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna said in a mid-afternoon scrum with reporters.
Wall has already flatly stated he won’t sign the proffered agreement and Clark was suggesting it might be prudent to “set aside clauses.”
Pressed on whether a deal would emerge, McKenna insisted one would – repeatedly calling it a “historic day.”
“This is a framework. ..,” the federal minister responded when asked what happens if some provinces won’t sign on.
“Then we need to implement. We need to take real action.”