Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe said he was disappointed after a meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau where he said Ottawa declined his request to withdraw a federal carbon tax on his province.
“I came here in good faith to meet with the Prime Minister after his words on the night of the election where he said he understood the frustrations of the people of the province of Saskatchewan,” Mr. Moe told reporters.
“Disappointedly after this meeting here today, what I do see is we are going to see more of the same from this Prime Minister.”
The provincial leader said he will be taking steps to increase provincial autonomy, hinting at what appears to be a measure to open up Saskatchewan trade promotion offices abroad.
The 14 federal ridings in Mr. Moe’s province elected no Liberals to Parliament in the Oct. 21 general election, and the sole Liberal MP in that province, veteran cabinet minister Ralph Goodale, lost a seat he’s held for decades.
Mr. Trudeau made a commitment to heal divisions after the vote, telling Canadians in Saskatchewan and Alberta on election night that he had “heard your frustration” and “wanted to be there to support you.”
Mr. Moe had come to Ottawa to pitch the Prime Minister on several proposals, including cancelling the federal carbon tax and revising the federal equalization program in Saskatchewan and Alberta’s favour.
He said he didn’t hear what he wanted to hear from Mr. Trudeau.
“I did not hear a commitment to moving forward on those items,” Mr. Moe said.
In April, the federal Liberal government imposed a carbon levy in four provinces – Ontario, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and New Brunswick – whose governments opted not to put in place their own price on greenhouse gas emissions. Ottawa plans to impose the federal carbon tax on Alberta starting Jan. 1.
Cameron Ahmad, director of communications for the Prime Minister’s Office, declined to directly address Mr. Moe’s characterization of the meeting with Mr. Trudeau.
“We are committed to making Parliament work for all Canadians, and will continue having constructive discussions with premiers, mayors, and other parties to address issues right across the country,” Mr. Ahmad said in a prepared statement.
He defended the federal carbon levy and noted money collected is being rebated to Canadian families.
“In addition to ensuring this Parliament works, Canadians expect our government to make life more affordable for them and fight climate change – which is exactly what we’re doing by putting a price on pollution and giving money right back to families, including for people in Saskatchewan. The Prime Minister is eager to work together to keep making progress and grow the middle class, and looks forward to meeting with all premiers one-on-one in the near future.”
Mr. Moe said he had asked Mr. Trudeau to make a “commitment to a conversation around having a fair wealth distribution policy in this nation” – one that is fair for provinces such as his, and Alberta, that have suffered a decline in economic activity in recent years.
He cited the carbon tax and federal legislation C-69, which sets up a new authority to assess the impact of major infrastructure projects such as pipelines, mines and interprovincial highways, as obstacles to growth.
Mr. Moe said he also asked for a commitment to ensure provinces such as Saskatchewan can get their products to market even beyond the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project, the petroleum transmission asset that Ottawa purchased last year.
Asked why Saskatchewan should get a break on the federal carbon tax when people in other provinces are paying carbon levies, he said carbon taxation policy in his province “does nothing to reduce emissions.”
He said Saskatchewan believes “the provinces retain their jurisdiction when it comes to climate policy.”
Mr. Moe said Saskatchewan will continue with its court challenge of the federal carbon tax at the Supreme Court. Saskatchewan appealed to the country’s highest court after losing its constitutional challenge against the federal tax in its own Appeal Court in May, in a 3-2 split decision.
With a report from The Canadian Press