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Surrounded by her provincial counterparts, Minister of Environment and Climate Change Catherine McKenna speaks during a press conference following their meetings Friday January 29, 2016 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Surrounded by her provincial counterparts, Minister of Environment and Climate Change Catherine McKenna speaks during a press conference following their meetings Friday January 29, 2016 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Ottawa lowers expectations for climate deal with provinces Add to ...

Ottawa and the provinces will not reach a deal on new climate-change targets when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau holds a first ministers’ meeting with the premiers next month.

The smiles and interprovincial harmony that was apparent at the international climate summit in Paris is giving way to emerging tensions between premiers as they attempt to strike a plan that will deliver on Canada’s emission-reduction targets.

Federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna, as well as British Columbia and Ontario, are playing down expectations of a deal at the meeting, scheduled for March 3 in Vancouver. It was originally promoted as the gathering that would hammer out the details of Canada’s Paris pledge.

Rather than announcing a deal, Ms. McKenna said Ottawa and the provinces are looking to set up working groups that would dive into specific sources of emissions – including buildings, the energy sector and transportation – to come up with the policies that would ultimately form a new plan and potentially more ambitious targets.

“What will happen in March is we will start the discussion on the plan,” she said. “You can’t just come up with a target without actually looking at what measures [to adopt] and how do we work together in these areas.”

“And so that’s what we’re going to do, and after we’ve done the hard work, then we will be able to say what a new target will look like,” Ms. McKenna said.

B.C. Premier Christie Clark and Ontario Environment Minister Glen Murray have made similar comments in recent days.

The Liberal Party platform promised a first ministers’ meeting within 90 days of the Paris climate summit “to establish a pan-Canadian framework for combatting climate change.”

Mr. Trudeau first met with the premiers in November before the Paris summit and held a joint news conference with some premiers in Paris to present a united Canadian position.

In the weeks that have followed, however, divisions between premiers on issues related to energy and the economy have surfaced.

Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall has been goading Quebec over the billions of dollars it receives in equalization payments after Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre and other Quebec mayors spoke out against the proposed Energy East pipeline. And on Thursday, the B.C. government used its Throne Speech to chastise Alberta for failing to diversify its economy and control spending. The B.C. government also appears to be criticizing the new Alberta government for announcing a carbon tax that would raise government revenue, in contrast to the B.C. carbon tax, which produces revenue-neutral tax cuts.

The tensions are a symptom of the pressure governments face as they attempt to deliver on environmental promises at a time when Canada’s resource sector is reeling from low oil prices and weak global growth.

While major new measures are expected to be released in the federal budget, likely in March, the government did announce $31.5-million in grants and loans for local green infrastructure projects Wednesday that come from an existing fund. The federal government has not yet said what specific policies it would like to see as part of a national climate-change plan, though Ms. McKenna said it will “put a price on carbon.”

Conservative interim leader Rona Ambrose has repeatedly criticized the Liberal government’s environmental plans in the House of Commons, warning they will lead to a national carbon tax. “Unfortunately, making things worse is exactly what the Prime Minister is doing,” Ms. Ambrose said earlier this month. “His plan for a national carbon tax will mean more costs piled on to Alberta families, on top of the carbon taxes they are already paying.”

Last May, the Conservative government announced a new target for Canada that promised a 30-per-cent reduction in greenhouse-gas emissions below 2005 levels by 2030. The Liberal government adopted that target in Paris, but Ms. McKenna has described it as the “floor” of what a new Canadian plan would achieve.

Environment Canada reported this month that Canada is currently on track to fall far short of its targets for 2020 and 2030.

Meanwhile, the Ontario government announced Wednesday that it is updating its consumer incentive program for electric-vehicle purchases as part of its climate-change plan. The update increases the current incentive for electric vehicles from a range of $5,000 to $8,500 to a range of $6,000 to $10,000, with the potential for additional incentives based on battery size and the number of seats. The province is also capping incentives for vehicles priced between $75,000 and $150,000 at $3,000. The announcement also includes an incentive of $1,000 for the purchase and installation of chargers for home and business use.

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