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Politics Ottawa to roll out new rules to cut Canadian carbon emissions

Canada's Environment Minister Catherine McKenna speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Canada, January 26, 2016.

CHRIS WATTIE

Environment Minister Catherine McKenna says the federal government will introduce new regulations to cut Canadian carbon emissions later this fall, in addition to a carbon tax it will impose on some provinces and territories.

The new measures will include making new and old buildings and houses more energy efficient, Ms. McKenna told CTV's Question Period on Sunday. The regulations will come on top of a national carbon tax unveiled by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau last week.

"There's going to be a range of measures and we're going to be doing it with the provinces and territories. And so the plan is going to be announced in the fall," said Ms. McKenna, leaving any further details until the official announcement.

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"Some people say just have a price on carbon. If you were to do that, the price would be so high it wouldn't make any sense. So that's why you have to have a variety of different measures."

Mr. Trudeau angered some provinces last Monday when he unilaterally announced the Liberal government's plan to set a minimum carbon price as environment ministers were meeting in Montreal discussing just that. Starting in 2018, Ottawa will impose a $10-a-tonne carbon price on provinces and territories that don't adopt their own carbon tax or cap-and-trade plan; that price will go up by $10 a year for the following four years. Ontario, Quebec, Alberta and British Columbia already have carbon-pricing plans.

All revenue generated by the national carbon price will be returned to the provinces and territories. Ms. McKenna said they can use the money for whatever they wish, including tax cuts. But Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall, who was critical of Mr. Trudeau for his handling of the carbon tax plan, questioned the need for a national carbon tax if revenue can be returned to the industries directly affected by it.

"If she's [Ms. McKenna] saying, 'Look, we're going to levy this carbon tax anyway, give you the money and you can just pay it back to all of these same sectors – oil and gas, agriculture, manufacturing and mining,' then what is the point?" Mr. Wall said later on Question Period.

Ms. McKenna said the Premier should remember that a number of major energy companies, including Suncor and Shell, and Canada's big-five banks support a national carbon price. Mr. Wall bit back, saying the tax will have serious consequences for the small service companies and producers he represents as Premier.

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"If they've got a $50 carbon tax in our province, thanks to the Trudeau government, and they don't have one in North Dakota – and they will not – what does that do to North American competitiveness?" Mr. Wall said. "What about the lentil farmer in Saskatchewan who's competing with his American counterpart and now has additional costs?"

Mr. Wall said Saskatchewan is looking at its legal options, including the constitutionality of a carbon tax that could be imposed on some provinces and not others.

Despite the resistance from some provinces, Ms. McKenna said she is still confident the government will eventually get everyone on side.

"I think we're going to get there … Politics is politics," Ms. McKenna said. "I'm just going to keep on marching along."

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