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Ottawa and Alberta lag behind

Posted by mhudema on July 16, 2008

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20080716.wclimate0716/BNStory/National/home

Ottawa far behind provinces on climate change: report

BRIAN LAGHI

Globe and Mail Update

July 16, 2008 at 1:07 PM EDT

QUEBEC — A leading environmental organization says Ottawa can take lessons from a clutch of Canadian provinces that it says are well in front of a laggard federal government on coping with climate change.

The report from the David Suzuki Foundation argues that most provinces have better climate change plans than the Stephen Harper Conservatives.

“The leadership vacuum at the federal level is being filled with action from the provinces and territories,” said Dale Marshall, the report’s author and a Suzuki Foundation policy analyst.

Top on the list was British Columbia, followed by Quebec, Manitoba and Ontario. The province with the poorest plan was Alberta.

The Maritime provinces and Nunavut garnered a “fair” rating for their climate-change policies, while the plans of Newfoundland, the Yukon, the Northwest Territories and Saskatchewan were deemed “poor.”

The report comes as premiers arrive Tuesday for the annual meeting of the Council of the Federation. Premiers do not plan to try to seek Pan-Canadian consensus to reduce greenhouse gases, with some saying they may have to wait until after the U.S. elections to kick-start the process.

Their reasoning comes as a number of premiers, including leaders of energy-rich provinces, are expected to criticize Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion’s Green Shift.

“We’re going to be vocal about any scheme that will, as a net result, transfer wealth and opportunity from our province and threaten our ‘have’ status,” Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall said in an interview Tuesday. “I’ll take every chance I can to say, ‘It’s not on in our books.’ “

A spokesman for Nova Scotia Premier Rodney MacDonald also said yesterday the leader won’t hesitate to criticize the plan. The Nova Scotia government has made it clear that it wants to discuss the effect of burgeoning energy prices.

“We’re very concerned about what the plan would mean for Nova Scotians,” Wade Keller said.

Although a number of provinces have separate ideas for combatting climate change, they have not been able to reach an accord on a national scheme.

Officials acknowledged that the premiers will refrain from even trying for unanimity this year after Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty’s push for a national carbon-trading idea fizzled at last year’s meeting over opposition from many of his colleagues, notably Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach.

But Quebec Premier Jean Charest, the host of this year’s gathering, said it is only a matter of time before all the provinces and territories follow the United States and unite behind a common strategy. He said the two main contenders in next year’s U.S. presidential elections both support a cap-and-trade system.

“I don’t think we can look at this issue now without factoring in the change that’s going to happen in the United States in the short term,” Mr. Charest said. “I respect the position of the other provinces … but we should lead and prepare for a cap-and-trade system.”

Mr. Charest and Mr. McGuinty agreed last month to establish a market-based trading system to cut emissions. Both British Columbia, which has adopted its own carbon tax plan, and Manitoba support the Quebec-Ontario initiative.

Manitoba Premier Gary Doer argued that the four provinces represent about 80 per cent of Canada’s population. Those who want to stay behind will have no choice but to catch up, he said.

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