In a curious twist, Quebec Premier Jean Charest is publicly defending Canada’s national interest. Charest recently responded to the Harper government’s so-called “policy” on climate change, which is to do whatever the U.S. does (read this recent post for more). The premier of the province with the most ambivalent relationship with the rest of Canada finds himself defending Canada’s right to its own climate change plan. Charest recently questioned why Canada’s national policy is to follow the American’s lead, and denounced the Conservative government’s declaration that Canada’s climate plan is to mimic whatever policy the U.S. government eventually adopts. Mr. Charest said this week:
“The only federal plan is to align with the United States. However, I never in my life thought that aligning our policies with the United States was good enough for Canada.”
Meanwhile, federal Environment Minister Jim Prentice recently slammed Quebec’s new environmental regulations that set more stringent emissions standards for vehicles, saying they are :
an absolutely counter-productive and utterly pointless way to cut greenhouse-gas emissions that will ultimately put Canada at a competitive disadvantage in the North American marketplace.
Charest disagreed, pointing out that 14 states have adopted similar legislation. Recently Quebec’s Environment Minister Line Beauchamp accused her federal counterpart of being a stooge of the auto industry. In an interview with the Canadian Press, Beauchamp said:
“He’s endorsing arguments advanced by automobile manufacturers and that discourages me.”
Bloc Québécois environment critic Bernard Bigras supported Quebec’s new vehicle emissions standards, saying that it is similar to the one adopted by 15 U.S. states representing 40 per cent of the U.S market. Bigras said:
“Quebec isn’t alone. Ontario also wants to move ahead on this issue but Ottawa is retreating. We appear to be on a collision course here.”
The reluctance on the part of the federal government to articulate a uniquely Canadian plan to one of the biggest issues of this century should be very concerning to Canadians of all political stripes. It is an abdication of responsibility, and should have Canadians wondering about the leadership qualities of this government. Kudos to Premier Charest, for giving voice to concerns that Canadians inside and outside Quebec share!