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Canada ‘more frank’ about climate change, Harper says

Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper (R) and his Australian counterpart Tony Abbott shake hands at a joint news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa June 9, 2014.

PATRICK DOYLE/REUTERS

Stephen Harper insists he won't be pressured to alter his business-friendly climate-change policies, saying the Conservative government is simply more upfront than leadership in some other countries about its intention to avoid abatement measures that hurt jobs and economic growth.

"No matter what they say, no country is going to take actions that are going to deliberately destroy jobs and growth in their country. We are just a little more frank about that," the Prime Minister said.

This unapologetic tone comes as one of Mr. Harper's senior-most cabinet members left little doubt Monday about where the Conservatives are leaning when it comes to approving the Northern Gateway oil sands pipeline, with Finance Minister Joe Oliver warning that Canada will be condemned to a future of debt and economic decline if the country can't get its landlocked oil to world markets.

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"The choice is stark," Mr. Oliver said Monday during a speech to the International Economic Forum of the Americas. "Head down the path of economic decline, higher unemployment, limited funds for social programs like health care, continuing deficits and growing debt, or achieve prosperity and security now and for future generations through the responsible development of our resources."

Mr. Harper was asked Monday about whether he felt pressure to rewrite his own package of climate-change abatement measures after U.S. President Barack Obama last week set new targets for power plants in the United States . The Prime Minister did not mince words, noting first that he felt Canada has already committed to more than the U.S. in an important regard.

"The measures outlined by President Obama, as important as they are, do not go nearly as far in the electricity sector as the actions Canada has already taken ahead of the United States in that particular sector," Mr. Harper said during a joint news conference with Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott in Ottawa.

The Canadian Prime Minister took a moment to praise his Australian counterpart for ending a "job-killing carbon tax" back home – a measure advocated by some as a means of limiting emissions that cause climate change.

"It's not that we don't seek to deal with climate change, but we seek to deal with it in a way that will protect and enhance our ability to create jobs and growth, not destroy jobs and growth," Mr. Harper said. He added "frankly, every single country in the world" feels the same way.

On the eve of a federal decision on the Northern Gateway pipeline, Mr. Oliver used a speech in Montreal to warn of the problems that face Canada if it cannot easily ship its petroleum bounty overseas. Speaking to reporters later, he refused to say whether he has urged federal cabinet to approve Northern Gateway. But his speech suggested the Conservative government wants it to proceed, insisting that the Tories would "fight for Canadian jobs, growth and prosperity" in pushing for more pipelines to diversify markets.

"Right now our oil is effectively landlocked," Mr. Oliver explained, pointing out that discounted prices for Canadian crude cost the economy $30-billion last year. "Canadians need to understand the consequences of not moving our resources to tidewater."

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The Harper government also secured a conditional endorsement Monday of more pipelines from Christine Lagarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund. Ms. Lagarde told the same conference that an expansion of energy infrastructure would allow Canada to tap growth opportunities in Asia and Europe.

But she cautioned that new energy infrastructure should not come at the expense of the environment and it must be "inclusive" of other parts of Canadian society. She also urged the Canadian government to ease foreign ownership restrictions in the energy industry to encourage investment in infrastructure, such as new pipelines.

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About the Authors
Parliamentary reporter

Steven Chase has covered federal politics in Ottawa for The Globe since mid-2001, arriving there a few months before 9/11. He previously worked in the paper's Vancouver and Calgary bureaus. Prior to that, he reported on Alberta politics for the Calgary Herald and the Calgary Sun, and on national issues for Alberta Report. More

National Business Correspondent

Barrie McKenna is correspondent and columnist in The Globe and Mail's Ottawa bureau. From 1997 until 2010, he covered Washington from The Globe's bureau in the U.S. capital. During his U.S. posting, he traveled widely, filing stories from more than 30 states. Mr. McKenna has also been a frequent visitor to Japan and South Korea on reporting assignments. More

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