Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will assemble premiers and territorial leaders to begin crafting a more ambitious strategy for fighting climate change ahead of international talks in Paris on cutting greenhouse-gas emissions.
In doing so, the new Prime Minister is reviving a practice of group meetings with his provincial and territorial counterparts that had been abandoned by Stephen Harper, his Conservative predecessor. The most recent first ministers' meeting took place in early 2009 – close to seven years ago – and Mr. Harper had preferred to deal one on one with each premier rather than face them all at once.
The United Nations COP21 meeting begins in Paris at the end of this month and the goal is to achieve a legally binding deal on reducing greenhouse-gas emissions among all countries in the world.
The challenge for the new Liberal government, which accused the Conservatives of foot-dragging on cutting greenhouse-gas emissions, is that Mr. Trudeau has insufficient time before Paris to complete an overhaul of Canada's plan on climate-change mitigation.
Canada's current climate-change policy, drawn up by the former Conservative government, set a target of reducing emissions by 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030. Critics say the Tories failed to produce a comprehensive plan that could actually achieve that target.
Mr. Trudeau said Thursday that the first ministers' meeting, set for Nov. 23 in Ottawa, will be a first step in assembling a more comprehensive blueprint for fighting climate change.
"We will have a climate briefing by top climate scientists for the first ministers, and my own cabinet, to be followed by a working dinner," Mr. Trudeau told reporters.
He said the goal is to develop a "strong and cohesive message we will be delivering as Canadians in Paris."
Precise details on how Mr. Trudeau's new climate-change plan will work are still elusive.
Environment Minister Catherine McKenna has said the Conservative government's target should be considered the "floor," or absolute minimum for future Canadian action on climate change.
The Liberals have also promised to phase out fossil-fuel subsidies in Canada and must plan for that. A study by Oil Change International this week said Canadian subsidies averaged $3.6-billion in Canadian dollars over 2013 and 2014, including just more than $2-billion a year from the federal government.
The Prime Minister's Office said the scientists who will brief the premiers and ministers will be a mix of government scientists and other experts in their field. The list has yet to be completed.
A number of provinces, including Ontario, Manitoba and B.C., are expected to release new or updated climate-change strategies in the weeks ahead.
The offices of Alberta Premier Rachel Notley, B.C.'s Christy Clark, Ontario's Kathleen Wynne and Quebec's Philippe Couillard immediately confirmed their attendance at the Nov. 23 meeting to The Canadian Press.
With climate talks in Paris fast approaching, Ms. Notley's office has been packed during most evenings in recent weeks with whiteboards and advisers from the climate-change panel she created in the first months of her mandate.
Despite vows by the Alberta New Democrats to make the oil-producing province a leader in the fight against climate change, Ms. Notley's climate plan won't be finished before the impending conference. Instead, her office has promised to unveil a broad outline of Alberta's plan in the week before she leaves for Paris.
A spokeswoman for Ms. Wynne, who campaigned for the defeat of Mr. Harper, said the Ontario Premier is looking forward to the first ministers' meeting with Mr. Trudeau.
Zita Astravas said Ms. Wynne is very happy about this "new and positive relationship between the new government of Canada and the provinces and territories – one based on mutual respect, common goals and shared values."
With reports from The Canadian Press, Justin Giovannetti in Edmonton and Jane Taber in Toronto