With Keystone XL and other pipeline projects hanging in the balance, Alberta Premier Alison Redford says questions from opposition parties about the province's environmental record are "not good for Canada."
The Alberta government's climate-change plan was under scrutiny Tuesday, a day after comments Ms. Redford made in Ottawa were interpreted as a call on the federal government to follow Alberta's lead in putting a price on carbon.
The Premier quickly backed away from those remarks, saying that's not what she meant, but was grilled in Question Period by the opposition. At one point, she scolded the provincial Liberals – a party that last year proposed what would ultimately be a $1.8-billion-per-year provincial carbon levy – for "saying that our environmental record in Alberta isn't good enough. That's not good for Alberta, and it's not good for Canada."
Liberal Leader Raj Sherman said a higher carbon price would help pave the way for pipelines. "If we actually dealt with the environmental issues that we face, we could get our pipelines to the U.S. and the West Coast. It's hurting us not to do this right," he said.
NDP Leader Brian Mason later asked Ms. Redford whether she believes "that everyone who disagrees with her on Keystone is un-Canadian?" Ms. Redford didn't directly answer, saying Keystone is "fundamental to Alberta and Canada's economic growth … we understand it, and [Mr. Mason] does not."
Alberta has a carbon price, introduced in 2007, of $15 per ton, though it only applies to 12 per cent of emissions from large-scale emitters who fail to find other reductions. It is forecast to raise $60-million in revenue in the 2013-2014 year, down from $70-million the year before. In 2011, the program saw major emitters make changes that cut 1.5 megatons of emissions, or a little more than 1 per cent, that otherwise would have been churned out.
But overall reported emissions have still continued to grow, and oil-sands development is projected to further spur that growth. Meanwhile, Alberta is moving to boost its environmental oversight by beefing up oil-sands monitoring, and has set carbon reduction targets, but is not on pace to meet them.
All this comes as environmental questions are the foremost hurdles for pipeline projects, including Keystone XL.
Ms. Redford said Alberta will continue to preach its successes, not failures, to leaders abroad. "It's a record to be proud of, and that's what we stand by," Ms. Redford said on Tuesday.
The Premier was said to have called on the federal government to follow Alberta's lead and introduce a price on carbon. Her office later said she was misunderstood, issuing a clarification and then making Ms. Redford available to speak to reporters in Edmonton on Tuesday. "I am in no way advocating any sort of national carbon tax. That's for other governments to decide," she said.
Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith nonetheless accused the Premier of advancing a plan that "would see Alberta's vast resource wealth sucked out of this province and pumped into Ontario and Quebec." Ms. Redford later fired back. "The suggestion that that's what the conversation was about [in Ottawa Monday] is absolutely absurd, but I don't expect anything more from the opposition," the Premier said, later noting that Ms. Smith said just last year that the "science isn't settled" on climate change.
Environmentalists point to British Columbia's carbon tax as a better model for slowing emissions growth – that province's tax is higher, and applies to more industries. But Ms. Redford doesn't plan on looking to B.C. for ideas. "I think B.C. has a model that they think works for them. … I'm very proud of what we've done in Alberta, and I'd certainly recommend people take a look at it," she said, later adding that she's not considering raising the carbon price.
Environment Minister Diana McQueen had previously said that Alberta won't raise its carbon price unless other jurisdictions bring in their own carbon tax, saying Alberta doesn't want to become uncompetitive.