As Ottawa prepares to table its climate commitment to the United Nations, federal Natural Resources Minister Greg Rickford has made it clear that the menu does not include a carbon price on Canada's oil and gas industry.
In a speech at Calgary's Petroleum Club on Thursday, Mr. Rickford launched an attack on Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, who this year used the same venue to announce his party's support for a national carbon tax that would be implemented by provinces but designed in an Ottawa-led process. It would include incentives as well as penalties for provinces that failed to do their share.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper has said his government will adopt sector-by-sector regulations, but would impose new emission regulations on the oil industry only if the United States agrees to regulate its industry, and if the oil-producing provinces agreed to the measures.
Mr. Harper and his ministers and MPs have condemned any proposal for carbon pricing – either through direct levies or cap-and-trade plans – as job-killing taxes that would increase the price of all goods, especially fuel and food.
"To put it simply, if elected, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau would nationally impose a risky unilateral scheme that would, by necessity, require carbon taxes; impose higher prices on every single thing Canadians buy, and would hurt Canada's economy and competitiveness," Mr. Rickford said.
Seizing on Mr. Trudeau's description of his own plan as being similar in design to medicare, the Conservative minister noted that the national health plan now costs $34-billion, and then leapt to the conclusion that a Liberal climate plan would amount to a $34-billion transfer to provinces.
The Harper government is currently preparing a submission to the UN climate secretariat on Canada's target to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions by 2025, and the actions it anticipates federal, provincial and territorial governments will take to get there.
The Obama administration this week said it aims to cut emissions by 28 per cent below 2005 levels by 2025, a figure Canada is unlikely to match.
In an interview, Mr. Rickford insisted Canada will do its share to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions, but will not add costs on an oil industry that is struggling with depressed prices.
"We're not going to put Canada or specific sectors, particular in energy, at a singular disadvantage by implementing some kind of federal carbon pricing scheme," he said.
"It would put the sector in an extremely disadvantaged position, particularly right now when our biggest customer is also our biggest competitor."
While the Conservative government balks at carbon pricing, provinces are moving forward.
Ontario is expected to announce this month that it will join California and Quebec in a market-based system based on capping emissions and trading allowances and credits.