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Federal Natural Resources Minister Wilkinson responds to Saskatchewan First Act

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Federal Natural Resources Minister Wilkinson responds to Saskatchewan First Act
Speaking at an event in Regina Wednesday, Wilkinson said there are "conversations" to be had regarding areas where provincial and federal jurisdiction "overlap" – Nov 10, 2022

Federal Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson says the “views of Saskatchewan” are “being reflected upon” as the government of Canada goes about finalizing its environmental policies.

“The clean electricity standard (CES) is something still being consulted on and we’ve certainly heard the views of Saskatchewan, and not just Saskatchewan, but many other provinces,” Wilkinson said at an event in Regina Wednesday.

The clean electricity regulations (formerly known as the CES), one of numerous federal proposals recently critiqued by the Saskatchewan government, proposes transitioning Canada to a net-zero electricity grid by 2035. The plan proposes the phase-out of coal-fired power generation and the phase-down of natural gas generation.

According to Saskatchewan’s recently released paper analyzing potential costs of federal environmental policies and proposals, “SaskPower has stated it is not possible to meet this target, given the sources of electricity generation available at a commercial-scale in the province by 2035.”

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Saskatchewan premier Scott Moe has also expressed interest in continuing operation of one of the province’s coal power plants beyond 2030 (Canada initially announced regulations to phase out coal-fired electricity by 2030 in 2018.)

Last week the government of Saskatchewan introduced the Saskatchewan First Act in the legislature, a bill it says will “amend the Constitution of Saskatchewan to clearly confirm Saskatchewan’s sovereign autonomy and assert Saskatchewan’s exclusive legislative jurisdiction under the Constitution of Canada” over natural resource exploration, development and electricity generation.

“What I would say is I think Canadians expect us to try to figure out ways to work together, but where there are some disputes that can’t get resolved, and ultimately the supreme court will decide on the dispute as they did on the price on pollution,” Wilkinson said when asked about the bill, and any potential future legal challenges.

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Moe, though, said the idea of altering any of the policies targeted in his recent white paper is news to him.

“There should be substantial wiggle-room on all these policies, but unfortunately that’s not what we’ve seen in the development of policies in days gone by,” Moe said Wednesday afternoon following Saskatchewan question period.

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Moe said his government will move ahead with the bill expecting no change in federal plans, adding doing so is necessary to protect future investment in Saskatchewan.

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“First and foremost is our ability to retain our jurisdiction under the constitution so we can continue to, yes, do right by the environment, but also ensure we can continue to create wealth, in our families, in our communities and across the province, and I would say indirectly across the nation,” he said.

He pointed out that one of Saskatchewan’s three operating coal power plants, Shand Power Station, has a retirement date of 2042, adding that shutting it down before then and replacing it with renewable energy or abated natural gas generation will come with a cost.

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