Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Federal/provincial environmental disagreement

You've probably heard by that it seems there’s a difference of agreement on environmental policy between a federal political party and its governing provincial cousins:

The Alberta government is spending $25-million to spruce up the province's image for tourists, immigrant workers and environmental critics. As for the environment part of the message, Alberta should save the money. Alberta's climate change policy will soon be dead. It will be dead in the United States. It is already dead with the Harper government, even if the Harperites don't want publicly to administer last rites. It's dead with some of the smart people in the oil industry.

Oh, you were referring to the difference of opinion in the Liberal camp, with Ontario premier Dalton McGuinty supposedly being at odds with Stephane Dion’s in-progress carbon shift proposal? OK, we can talk about that one too:

Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty is at odds with his Ottawa cousins over a key plan to tax carbon emissions, saying he'd prefer a cap-and-trade system for the country's most populous province over a carbon tax.

The tax, which is expected to be a central plank in the federal Liberal election platform, is one way to put a price on carbon and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but his "first choice" for Ontario is a cap-and-trade system, McGuinty said Tuesday.

Let’s look at what Dalton is actually saying, and what he didn’t say. He didn't say he's against a carbon shift. He said is “first choice” would be cap and trade. And his brother, surely a trusted source (sure David is a federal Liberal MP, but what would Mom say if he misrepresented Dalton’s views?) backs that up:

David McGuinty downplayed concerns that the carbon tax plan could drive a wedge between the Ontario and federal Liberals.

He said he had a "general discussion" with his brother about the merits of one system over another, but the premier didn't express an opinion about carbon taxes.

"It was more of an exchange of ideas around the two possibilities, the two primary market mechanisms that can be harnessed to achieve the same end, which is a price on carbon," McGuinty said.

In fact, a federal carbon tax could complement a provincial cap-and-trade system, he said.

"I think what the premier's said is, 'Look, given the here and now of the specificity of the Ontario economy, and how we would like to go forward in pricing carbon, we would rather go with a cap-and-trade system first,"' he said.

"But I doubt very much the premier's ruling out the notion of a carbon tax shift."

So, there you go. Dalton isn’t against a carbon shift, he just feels that for Ontario, and the provincial level, cap and trade would be best. It’s Dalton’s job to advocate what’s best for Ontario. And it’s Stephane Dion’s to advocate what’s best for Canada. I’m confident the two positions are far from mutually exclusive.

Indeed, as David (and lots of experts, and much of Europe) has said cap and trade and a carbon shift would (and overseas, do) compliment each other nicely, so any talk of a rift here is just media over dramatization. Nothing in the story, no direct quotes, supports the headline.

And as I mentioned the other, one benefit of the way the Liberal Party is developing this policy, and the fact that it hasn’t been finalized yet, is that the concerns of Premier McGuinty and Ontario can be heard, considered, and factored into the final policy.

I hope, and I trust, that we’re consulting right now with our provincial cousins, or in David’s case with his brother, to ensure the input of Ontario, and all the provinces, is factored into the final carbon tax shift policy before it is unveiled so that we can develop a proposal for federal environmental policy that works in harmony with, and compliments, the important work being done by many provinces.

I think that, in the end, Dalton’s input will only lead to a stronger, more effective and widely accepted policy. That would be a win win for Ontario, and for Canada.

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ted said...

Has there been any elaboration, that you know of, of the statement that cap and trade would suit Ontario's economy better?

jaybird said...

McGuinty prefers cap and trade because it is preferable for a province with a manufacturing base that is already hurting. For a population that is already in trouble because of lay-offs and higher prices.

It would seem that McGuinty understands that as important as climate change is (and I don't dispute that in the least) there is another credible way to start attacking the problem by capping the emissions of the biggest polluters and making them pay if they exceed the cap.

That is what the NDP is proposing (www.ndp.ca)

JimBobby said...

Whooee! The Green Party has been consistent in proposing a combination of carbon tax and cap-and-trade. The two are not mutually exclusive and it is by using a combination of the two methods that some EU and Scandinavian countries have been able to meet their Kyoto targets.

Us treehuggin' Greens are happy as Larry that Dion's seen the light on carbon taxes. I hope he also adopts the GPC policy on cap-and-trade.

The European experience has been taht carbon taxes start working almost immediately while the market mechanism is slower to get rolling. Both are effective and both should be used.

BTW, the GintyGrits got about zero cred with environmentalists. Their $40 billion gift to the nuclear industry is what makes them anti-Earthers. At the same time, they refuse to invest in scrubbers for Nanticoke that would reduce particulate pollution by 90%. They buy a shitload of unnecessary SUV's, too. They ain't got a clue about waste management, neither.

Dalton Ginty is a liability for Dion's green image.


ted said...

I'd like to know if the provincial Liberals favour cap and trade with auctioned emissions credits or free emissions credits.

A BCer in Toronto said...

Ted, I'm not really familiar with the green proposals of the McGuinty Liberals beyond the sparse comments in the linked articles. It certainly wasn't an issue in the last election, but then what was besides religious schools.

jaybird said...

BCer: just a little jab - religious schools were the only issue because the McGuinty campaign primed the pump at each and every turn. It would have been nice if some freakin' issues were discussed but hey I guess the Liberal strategy provincially (and federally) is politics over principle every time.