Policy alert

In the Speech from the Throne that followed its reelection in 2008, the Harper government stated its intention to “develop and implement a North America-wide cap and trade system for greenhouse gases.” A year later, the Harper government claimed to be “working in collaboration with the provinces and territories to develop a cap and trade system that will ultimately be aligned with the emerging cap and trade program in the United States.” At present, the government’s climate change website describes cap and trade as an “option” (though one that will “only” be implemented if the United States does likewise).

Nonetheless, when John Baird turned up at the National Press Theatre yesterday afternoon, apparently to restate his party’s doubts about Michael Ignatieff’s patriotism, he described cap and trade (at least as proposed by the Liberal party) as both “dangerous” and “unCanadian.”

I wondered aloud if this description indicated the Conservative side was renouncing any intention of ever bringing in a cap and trade system in Canada. Below, Mr. Baird’s answer in its entirety.

I think the Liberal party’s efforts in the early 80s that divided this country, like few other issues have, it is incredibly divisive the proposal that Mr. Ignatieff has talked about. I think we’ve been very clear with respect to greenhouse gas emissions, with respect to air pollutants, that we will regulate, working with the United States. It’s not easy, but we’ve finally got an administration where we’re getting real results. We’ve worked incredibly hard on a North American auto standard. We’re doing that by regulation, not by capping and trading. We’re working hard on light trucks, that’s been done. We’re working hard on civil aviation with ICAO, on marine transportation with the IMO, International Maritime Organization. We’re working hard on dirty coal, electricity generation. I think it’s just, if we’re going to do it, we can’t be pitting one part of Canada against another and trying to redistribute wealth from Alberta and Saskatchewan to other provinces. The divisions caused in the early 80s are still felt today. I think President Obama has spoken about the capacity to get a cap and trade bill through the United States congress as dead and let’s move forward on regulation. That’s where I think we’re going to get the best reductions, rather than a cap-and-trade or cap-and-tax, whatever you’d like to call it.

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