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Scheer Claims Liberals Lack 'Real' Climate Plan, Despite Carbon Pricing System

Catherine McKenna accused the Tory leader of developing his climate plan with "oil lobbyists."
Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer speaks during a news conference in Ottawa on April 29, 2019.
Adrian Wyld/CP
Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer speaks during a news conference in Ottawa on April 29, 2019.

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer is claiming the Liberal government lacks a "real" climate plan, despite its implementation of a carbon pricing system to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

Scheer told reporters Monday that he "absolutely" sees a link between climate change and the flooding that has wreaked havoc in Ontario, Quebec, and New Brunswick in recent days.

"It's quite clear that climate change has been linked to many different types of extreme weather events," Scheer said at a press conference in Ottawa.

But when pressed about his yet-to-be released strategy to tackle GHG emissions, Scheer said the flooding was "all the more reason why we need a real plan, not an ineffective carbon tax that has been shown not to reduce emissions."

Canada will not meet its international commitments with the current pricing regime, Scheer said.

Under the Paris climate accord, Canada committed to a 30 per cent cut in emissions from 2005 levels by 2030. However, Environment Commissioner Julie Gelfand has said Canada is not at all on pace to hit those targets.

"It's been quite some time since the Liberals promised their environmental plan and today all we have is an ineffective carbon tax," Scheer said.

The federal government has imposed a carbon tax of $20 per tonne (set to rise to $50 per tonne by 2022) on four provinces that have refused to bring in a pricing system up to its standards: Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and New Brunswick.

People in those provinces will receive rebates of hundreds of dollars per household to offset increased costs of gas and home heating. Canada's budget watchdog has concluded that most Canadians will get more money back in rebates than they pay in the carbon tax.

In British Columbia, where a carbon tax of $10 per tonne was instituted in 2008, emissions dropped by as much 15 per cent, according to a 2015 academic study. The carbon price in B.C. rose to $40 per tonne this year.

However, data released by the B.C. government shows GHG emissions in 2016 increased by 1.5 per cent from the previous year — from 61.3 million tonnes to 62.3 million tonnes. That still represents a drop of 2.2 per cent from 2007, before the carbon tax was instituted, according to the government report.

While Scheer did not cite the B.C. model, other Tory MPs have claimed the province shows carbon taxes don't reduce GHG emissions.

"British Columbia has the longest-standing carbon tax in the country. Its greenhouse gas emissions are actually going up, not down," Tory MP Rachel Harder said in the House of Commons earlier this month.

Watch: Trudeau says Tory opposition 'denies climate change is real'

Scheer, who has pledged that repealing the carbon pricing regime will be his first act as prime minister, said over the weekend that he will unveil his environmental plan before the end of June. He has hinted the plan will focus on Canada helping to reduce global emissions with "leadership" on clean energy and technology.

Tories have already committed to banning the dumping of raw sewage into waterways.

But Liberals appear eager to keep pushing Scheer to tell Canadians how he would do things differently when it comes to fighting climate change.

On Monday, Environment Minister Catherine McKenna and Finance Minister Bill Morneau held a press conference on Parliament Hill to mark "the one-year anniversary" of Scheer promising to release a climate plan.

Last year, on April 29, Scheer told CTV News his plan would meet Canada's Paris climate targets without a carbon tax. Scheer noted at the time that Tory MPs — with the exception of Ontario's Cheryl Gallant — voted in 2017 to implement the Paris accord.

Since then, however, Scheer has said his plan will "speak to" Canada's climate targets.

Finance Minister Bill Morneau looks on as Environment Minister Catherine McKenna speaks in the foyer of the House of Commons in Ottawa on April 29, 2019.
Adrian Wyld/CP
Finance Minister Bill Morneau looks on as Environment Minister Catherine McKenna speaks in the foyer of the House of Commons in Ottawa on April 29, 2019.

McKenna accused Scheer of developing his climate plan with "oil lobbyists," a dig at the Tory leader's recent campaign strategy session with oil executives.

She also said Scheer has been working in lockstep with conservative premiers who "believe we should do less on climate change," pointing a finger at Ontario's Doug Ford.

Ontario Tories scrapped the province's cap-and-trade system shortly after forming government last year. The province is fighting the federal carbon tax in court, something Prime Minister Justin Trudeau chalked up to a waste of taxpayers' money last week.

Canadians across the country are seeing the impacts of climate change, McKenna said, from flooding to extreme heat to forest fires.

"I think Canadians are connecting the dots and we have a responsibility as government to provide the best science, to also do policy measures that make sense," she said.

"That's why we're putting a price on pollution because when it's free to pollute we're going to have more pollution which is bad in the short term for health but it's also bad in the long term for climate change."

Grit plan is 'comprehensive': McKenna

The Liberal plan is "comprehensive," McKenna said, and was borne from year-long negotiations with provinces and territories, Indigenous communities, and cities.

"We have one planet," she said. "We need to protect it and we need to be working together."

McKenna later released a letter to Scheer addressing his "difficulty locating Canada's climate plan."

The Conservative Party of Canada also sent a news release highlighting recent news stories that have said Canada is not on track to hit Paris targets, despite the carbon pricing system.

"This spring, Conservatives will present Canadians with a real environmental plan that will lower global emissions without making Canadians pay more," it read.

With files from The Canadian Press, earlier files

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