Carbon tax court ruling dominates Question Period

John Cairns' Leg Watch

Question Period on Monday quickly descended into a debate on topics now familiar to followers of Saskatchewan politics: the carbon tax and the pipeline situation.

Opposition leader Ryan Meili launched his questioning by pointing to the Premier’s absence from gatherings of students in Saskatoon and Regina on climate change Friday. Premier Scott Moe indicated in his response that he was in fact quite preoccupied on that date, as recorded in Hansard.

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Mr. Meili: —Thank you, Mr. Speaker. On Friday hundreds of students in Saskatoon and here in Regina gathered to ask for action on climate change. Now the Premier didn’t want to hear what they had to say, but he should. With floods across the country, with fires and droughts here in Saskatchewan, these are the young people who will be paying for our inaction for decades to come.

Instead we’ve had a decade of inaction, a decade of lip service, a decade in which we’ve seen cuts to the climate change branch — 80 per cent, silencing Saskatchewan scientists — a decade of missed opportunities in renewable energy, a decade of rising emissions.

Mr. Speaker, when will this government realize that climate change is serious? When will they take serious action with clear targets and a means to get there?

The Speaker: — I recognize the Premier.

Hon. Mr. Moe: —Well thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. On Friday the Premier of this province was busy, Mr. Speaker. He was going through a report with respect to a split decision that came down in our case, Mr. Speaker, in our reference case that we had put forward to the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal which was decided on, Mr. Speaker, as I said, in a split decision. And I indicated on Friday that we will be advancing that appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada on behalf of the people that we represent here in the province of Saskatchewan, Mr. Speaker.

All people in this nation and in this province, Mr. Speaker, whether they be on the front steps of the legislature, in our communities across Saskatchewan, or working in our industries, should not confuse taking real action on climate change with a federal carbon tax, Mr. Speaker. Those two are very, very different, Mr. Speaker.

And in Saskatchewan what has also occurred over the course of the past decade is real action on climate change, Mr. Speaker, in agriculture, when we look at crop agriculture being a carbon-neutral industry; what is happening in manufacturing, most particularly the steel manufacturing industry, Mr. Speaker, where we have a strong record in offsetting our emissions; what’s happened in our mining sector; what’s happening in our energy sector, Mr. Speaker. We can be very proud of the strong action that has been taken on climate change in this province, Mr. Speaker, without a carbon tax.

The Speaker: —I recognize the Leader of the Opposition.

Mr. Meili: —Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Talking about that split decision, something that wasn’t split, something that was common across the board: all five justices agreed that climate change is caused by anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions and that it’s one of the great existential issues of our time, Mr. Speaker.

My question for the Premier is this: does he agree with that statement? Does he agree with both the cause and the seriousness and the urgency of actions? And if he does, and if he wants to communicate that to the young people of this province, if he couldn’t be out there on the steps, why wasn’t the deputy premier, the Minister of the Environment, or someone else from this cabinet out there to speak to those students?

The Speaker: —I recognize the Premier.

Hon. Mr. Moe: —Mr. Speaker, members on this side of the House have always indicated that climate change is real, Mr. Speaker. It is a global challenge. And it is caused, Mr. Speaker, by the actions of people, not only in this province, Mr. Speaker, but by all around the world, people in industries, Mr. Speaker…

… And I liken, and I’ll use the analogy of some occurrences this past weekend, Mr. Speaker, with our provincial team that’s in the WHL [Western Hockey League] finals, the P.A. [Prince Albert] Raiders, Mr. Speaker. They didn’t have a very good game on Friday night, Mr. Speaker, and if that was the NDP [New Democratic Party] in that game, Mr. Speaker, they would’ve waved the white flag. They would have immediately ceded the Memorial Cup to the Vancouver Giants, Mr. Speaker.

Well I got into the game on Saturday night, Mr. Speaker, and those Raiders came back with a flawless effort, a 4-0 effort, Mr. Speaker, where they dominated, Mr. Speaker. And they’re going on to the next game out in Vancouver and the next game, Mr. Speaker, just like we are in our battle against the federally imposed carbon tax, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker: —I recognize the Leader of the Opposition.

Mr. Meili: —Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Now this Premier has said that this case is going to go all the way to the Supreme Court, a process that could take years and years. And in the meantime, we’re waiting. In the meantime we’re stuck with a tax designed in Ottawa and imposed upon Saskatchewan people, Mr. Speaker, a tax for which we should’ve gotten a much better deal. But this government, instead of coming to the table and negotiating a better deal, only wanted to play political games. It’s all about political posturing. Mr. Speaker . . .

[Interjections]

The Speaker: —Order please. Recognize the Leader of the Opposition.

Mr. Meili: —Mr. Speaker, this is never been about us. It’s never been about the people of Saskatchewan. It’s always been about the Sask Party. And we can see that because they were able, they were able to negotiate a better deal for the heaviest emitters in the province. Now that he knows this is going to be with us for years, when will the Premier get to the table and negotiate a better deal for the rest of us?

The Speaker: —I recognize the Premier.

Hon. Mr. Moe: —Mr. Speaker, we never left the table. With respect to a plan, the plan of Prairie Resilience that the government of this province has put forward, Mr. Speaker, that plan was actually accepted by the federal government, Mr. Speaker. And we were proud to put forward a plan that was actually supported by the industry in this province, Mr. Speaker, representing all of the hard-working people and communities across this province. Unlike, quite frankly, the Ponzi scheme that the members opposite have put forward, a scheme that would cost SaskPower in excess of a billion dollars with no real reduction in our carbon footprint here in this province...

The Speaker: —I recognize the Leader of the Opposition.

Mr. Meili: —Never left the table, Mr. Speaker. This Premier, as minister of the Environment, pouted and huffed and puffed and left the rest of us holding the bag, and as a result we’re dealing with a tax designed in Ottawa instead of coming up with a plan that works for us, Mr. Speaker…

There’s a federal election coming up, Mr. Speaker. We need clarity on this important issue, and we also need clarity from our federal leaders. We as New Democrats have drafted a letter to the leaders of the three major parties asking them to tell us what their positions are today on equalization . . .

[Interjections]

The Speaker: —Sorry, I’m having a difficult time hearing the question. I recognize the Leader of the Opposition.

Mr. Meili: —We’ve drafted a letter asking for clarity from the leaders of the three main parties when it comes to their plans for equalization, Mr. Speaker. Will the Premier join us in signing that letter and getting a clear message from the leaders of the federal parties?

The Speaker: —I recognize the Premier.

Hon. Mr. Moe: —Mr. Speaker, the Leader of the Opposition is referencing a meeting of Environment ministers on October the 3rd of 2016, Mr. Speaker, where the federal government has unilaterally imposed a carbon tax on all of the people in this nation, Mr. Speaker, a carbon tax that we disagree with in this province. And he’s right, Mr. Speaker; I left that table. I’ve always been open to discussions since that point in time, Mr. Speaker, but on that particular day I stood with the people of the province, unlike the Leader of the Opposition who had this to say on October 2016. This is a quote, Mr. Speaker, and I quote, “We applaud the federal government’s recent announcement of a minimum price on carbon,” Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, with respect to clarity from our federal leaders, maybe the member opposite, the Leader of the provincial NDP, would ask his counterpart at the federal level about his stance on pipelines, Mr. Speaker. And I say, and I quote the federal leader, “I oppose the development of Kinder Morgan, Energy East, and Keystone XL pipelines,” Mr. Speaker. He goes on to say a few months later, “I’ve made it a really clear ‘no’ to Kinder Morgan and Energy East,” Mr. Speaker.

This is the leader of our federal NDP, Mr. Speaker. This is the leader of the Saskatchewan NDP that won’t even advocate with his federal leader, won’t advocate with his colleague in the province of British Columbia, Mr. Speaker, the Premier of that province, will not stand up and advocate for the people in this province, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker: —I recognize the Leader of the Opposition.

Mr. Meili: —Mr. Speaker, that’s patent nonsense from this Premier, Mr. Speaker. We have been 100 per cent clear that we are actually agreed in opposition to the imposition of the federal carbon tax and we are agreed in the need to get our energy products to market.

… Here’s a chance to make it clear. Does the Premier actually want a better deal on equalization? Does he want a better deal and will he join us in signing a letter asking for clarity from all of the federal leaders? Or is he too worried about getting Andrew Scheer elected to ask for a better deal for Saskatchewan people?

The Speaker: —I recognize the Premier.

Hon. Mr. Moe: —Well we’re going to see a ballot question this fall in the federal election, Mr. Speaker, make no mistake about it.

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