Ottawa takes cap-and-trade cover behind provinces

Praise for initiative by three major provinces masks lack of action by Conservatives at the national level.

Ottawa (2 August 2010) - The Harper government is taking cover behind three of Canada's biggest provinces in its latest attempt to avoid introducing a national cap-and-trade system on global warming emissions.


Instead of acting on behalf of Canadians across the country, the Conservatives are offering public support to Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia for a separate initiative – announced last week – to take action in cooperation with two U.S. states, California and New Mexico.

The province-state plan is scheduled to start in January 2012 and would cap emissions on large industrial facilities in the five jurisdictions.

The three Canadian provinces and two U.S. states jurisdictions are members of the Western Climate Initiative (WCI), launched in 2007 to help curb emissions. Other WCI members such as Utah and Arizona have not yet committed to the 2012 system.

Meanwhile, the Harper government, which has been dragging its feet for years, had uncharacteristic praise for the three provinces when the five-jurisdiction plan was announced last week.

“We support the actions taken," a spokesperson for Environment Jim Prentice told the Toronto Globe and Mail. “The development of a cap-and-trade system in the context of the Western Climate Initiative represents a positive step forward and it’s not incompatible with our own initiatives.”

Positive rhetoric aside, however, the Conservatives appeared mostly to be blowing more smoke on the issue.

While Prentice has talked as environment minister about introducing a federal cap-and-trade system, he has emphasized that the Americans must act first – and there is no sign of that happening.

The Democrats in the U.S. Senate abandoned efforts in July to pass a cap-and-trade system because of the blanket stonewalling by the always-pro-business U.S. Republican Party.

That left the Harper Conservatives to continue doing what they have always done best, which is to pay lip service to environment while doing nothing to actually protect it.

The goal of cap-and-trade programs is to reduce global warming emissions by limiting the volume of gases that industry can pump out. But to allow for flexibility and to minimize costs, they give business the option of buying credits to cover exceptions where caps are exceeded.


The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 340,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE

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