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Liberals to hold Commons vote next week on ratifying Paris climate accord

Environment Minister Catherine McKenna speaks in the House of Commons in Ottawa on Sept. 19, 2016.


The Liberal government will ask the House of Commons next week to support a ratification of the Paris climate agreement and the federal-provincial initiative to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Debate on the motion will begin with a speech from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Monday, and MPs are expected to vote on Wednesday. Environment Minister Catherine McKenna will meet with her provincial counterparts in Montreal on Monday to start work on the details of a pan-Canadian strategy to meet the international commitments in the Paris accord, which will include some form of carbon tax or cap-and-trade system.

"We know carbon pricing is a really important part of how we're going to reduce emissions," Ms. McKenna told reporters on Friday.

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Conservative MP Candice Bergen said her party supported the Paris targets to reduce emissions by 30 per cent from 2005 levels by 2030. The Conservative government of Stephen Harper adopted these targets last year, and the Trudeau Liberals declined to push for more aggressive goals after they were elected in October.

But Ms. Bergen said the Conservatives are concerned by comments Ms. McKenna made earlier in the month that the federal government will impose a carbon-pricing regime on any province that does not adopt one.

In an agreement known as the Vancouver Declaration that was reached in March, Ottawa and all of the provinces pledged to work together on a concrete plan to meet Canada's reduction targets and to support clean industries.

"[The Liberals] have to explain on one hand why they said they want to honour this Vancouver agreement, which is to respect the provinces and to have a working collaborative approach, and then, on the other hand, say that they will be imposing their will on the provinces," Ms. Bergen said.

The agreement included language on a carbon-pricing mechanism, but some premiers – most prominently Saskatchewan's Brad Wall – have resisted the imposition of a broad-based carbon tax.

Ms. McKenna said she is optimistic the provinces will work together constructively next week.

"Everyone understands – and through the Vancouver Declaration, this was part of it – putting a price on what we don't want, pollution, is something that's important," Ms. McKenna said. "So we're going to have a good discussion."

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The NDP said it supports the motion in principle, but is awaiting details of the Liberals' climate strategy.

"What we don't support is the lack of action on the government's part, the lack of a plan, the fact that they don't propose any targets. They offer Stephen Harper's plan, and for us, that is unacceptable," New Democrat MP Matthew Dubé said.

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About the Author
Assistant editor, Ottawa

Chris Hannay is assistant editor in The Globe's Ottawa bureau and author of the daily Politics newsletter. Previously, he was The Globe and Mail's digital politics editor, community editor for news and sports (working with social media and digital engagement) and a homepage editor. More


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