The divisions and potential points of agreement in a minority parliament are beginning to emerge as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau makes his way through a series of private meetings with federal party leaders before the House of Commons reconvenes December 5.
On Tuesday, Conservative leader Andrew Scheer suggested the east-west energy corridor he’d proposed during the fall election campaign as a federal action item that would quell the skepticism Trudeau faces in Alberta and Saskatchewan, where the Liberals failed to win a single Commons seat last month. Scheer also “repeated his call for the Liberals to repeal Bill C-69, which changed the environmental assessment rules for new projects, and Bill C-48, which would ban oil tankers from loading at ports on the northern coast of B.C.,” the Globe and Mail reports.
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On Wednesday, Trudeau said the government wouldn’t consider changes to either piece of legislation, but was open to suggestions on how to implement them, focusing on what spokesperson Eleanore Catenaro called “operational policies and guidelines that have yet to be developed”.
While Scheer presented his corridor scheme as a national unity plan, the Globe says the idea would place the PM in direct conflict with other provinces—and Trudeau said as much during the campaign, asserting that there is ”no social acceptability” for a new pipeline through Quebec.
“We will never impose a pipeline on Quebec,” Trudeau said October 10. “That is Andrew Scheer’s plan.”
On Wednesday, Bloc Québécois leader Yves-François Blanchet said he would support more aggressive federal action on the climate crisis, fight fossil fuel subsidies—and stay out of the two prairie provinces’ bid for greater autonomy from Ottawa.
“I see the current situation as an attempt by Alberta and Saskatchewan to gain a position of strength to force the federal government’s hand in terms of helping them to export their oil. In that context, my enthusiasm is quite limited,” Blanchet said. “It is a matter of being relevant and coherent not to support oil when you want to reduce the effects of climate change.”
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney shot back in a speech to the Canadian Association of Oilwell Drilling Contractors, claiming that a large share of the billions of dollars in equalization payments going to Quebec trace back to oil. “You cannot have your cake and eat it, too,” Kenney said. “Pick a lane.”
But Blanchet maintained he could not support two provinces that “obsessively want to extract oil from the ground”, adding that “if they were attempting to create a green state in Western Canada, I might be tempted to help them. If they are trying to create an oil state in Western Canada, they cannot expect any help from us.”
Ahead of his meeting Thursday with NDP leader Jagmeet Singh, Trudeau identified climate change as an area where Liberals and New Democrats might find common ground. Singh listed universal pharmacare, national dental care, climate, and a promise to drop the federal appeal against a human rights tribunal ruling on Indigenous child welfare as areas where he was looking commitments in the December 5 Speech from the Throne.
While Kenney has been resurrecting old ideas of a provincial “firewall” to protect Alberta’s interests, that oppositional stance hasn’t stopped him from simultaneously demanding nearly C$1.7 billion in federal bailout money for the collapse in global oil prices and its impact on his province’s fossil-dependent economy.
“Mr. Kenney’s request comes as he’s struck a panel that is investigating whether to renegotiate the province’s relationship with Ottawa and seek substantially more autonomy from the federal government,” the Globe and Mail reports. “According to Alberta’s 2019 budget, the Kenney government is expecting to receive $252 million from the federal government’s Fiscal Stabilization Program. Ottawa has yet to approve that request, but Mr. Kenney has already said he wants much more.”That’s on top of the $1,650 per citizen that Canada already spent in fossil fuel subsidies as of 2015, according to International Monetary Fund analysis reported last month by The Narwhal.
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