Environment shouldn’t become arena for political fights: Trudeau

By The Canadian Press
March 2, 2016 - 10:51am

VANCOUVER — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the environment shouldn’t be a partisan issue.

Trudeau says politicians may have different views and backgrounds, but they can still come together in the fight against climate change.

Trudeau’s appeal in a speech to a global clean-tech conference in Vancouver came ahead of talks with all 13 premiers and indigenous leaders on a national climate policy.

“It’s important to acknowledge our partners in Canada’s provincial legislatures … premiers who have led the push to phase out coal power in Ontario and Alberta and put a price on carbon in Quebec and here in British Columbia,” Trudeau said Wednesday.

“These are politicians of different stripes and different beliefs. But they come together on this issue, because the environment ought not to be a partisan issue.”

He said there’s no need to choose between a strong economy and a healthy environment.

“The choice between pipelines and wind turbines is a false one,” he said. “We need both to reach our goal. And as we continue to ensure there is a market for our natural resources, our deepening commitment to a cleaner future will be a valuable advantage.”

Trudeau said investments need to be made in clean growth and new infrastructure, so his government is doubling its financial support to $75 million over the next five years to help cities and towns respond to climate change challenges. Another $50 million is to go toward greener building and infrastructure codes across Canada.

“But we must also continue to generate wealth from our abundant natural resources to fund this transition to this low-carbon economy.”

Despite Trudeau’s collegial tone, discord was already evident heading into the meeting.

Indigenous groups have complained the invitation list was not wide enough. Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall has levelled a series of broadsides at the federal Liberal promise to consider carbon pricing. And Quebec managed to inflame much of Western Canada with a court intervention in the contentious Energy East pipeline proposal.

Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard took pains late Tuesday to explain that his province really isn’t joining the court fight to shut down the $15.7-billion project, but is only attempting to assert provincial environmental jurisdiction.

But Wall, who is seeking re-election in Saskatchewan in a little over a month, said he expected the move to be divisive.

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley took a more measured tone, but fired a rhetorical warning shot. She said she plans to “leave the gun in the holster until we are actually at the gunfight, and we are not there right now.”

On Wednesday, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne urged her colleagues to work together for the good of the economy.

“We are a small country in terms of population. We’ve got a huge geography, but we have a small population. So if we are going to punch above our weight, which I believe we do on the international stage, we need to all be working together,” she said. 

Wynne acknowledged contentious issues will be discussed.

“But I believe we have the capacity to find a way to find that common interest that will allow us to all be pulling in the same direction.”

The Canadian Press

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