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Canada’s Climate Plan In Freefall As Alberta Pulls Out

The Canadian province of Alberta announced Thursday it would pull out of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s flagship climate change initiative in protest against a court ruling against the expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline.

A court had earlier quashed the government’s approval of expanding the Trans Mountain pipeline to the Pacific, siding with indigenous people worried that increased tanker traffic will harm whales along the coast.

Landlocked Alberta in western Canada, which sits on the world’s third largest oil reserves, was set to rely on the pipeline to sell oil to Asian markets via the port of Vancouver.

“As important as climate action is to our province’s future I have also always said that taking the next step, in signing on to the federal climate plan, can’t happen without the Trans Mountain pipeline,” Premier Rachel Notley told reporters in a live address Thursday evening.

“With the Trans Mountain halted and the work on it halted, until the federal government gets its act together, Alberta is pulling out of the federal climate plan,” she said.

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Rachel Notley scraps plans to raise Alberta’s carbon tax following court decision on Trans Mountain

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley speaks at a news conference in Edmonton on Aug. 30, 2018. Ms. Notley says she’s pulling the province out of the federal climate change plan. –JASON FRANSON/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley is withdrawing her support for Ottawa’s national climate change strategy in the wake of a court decision overturning approval of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, scrapping plans to raise the province’s carbon tax in 2021 and 2022.

In a televised speech on Thursday evening, Ms. Notley said the Trudeau government should call an emergency session of Parliament. The Alberta Premier is also calling on the federal government to appeal the Trans Mountain case to the Supreme Court of Canada.

“Alberta has done everything right and we have been let down,” the Premier said. “It’s a crisis.”

The move means Alberta will now not move ahead to raise the province’s current carbon tax of $30 a tonne to $40 a tonne by 2021, or to $50 a tonne in 2022, as per the federal climate change plan schedule. Although the planned carbon levy increase is still three years away, the decision is a blow to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s push for national consensus on climate policy in the years ahead. Already, conservative governments in Saskatchewan and Ontario have said they will fight Ottawa in the courts on carbon pricing.

Ms. Notley’s announcement comes in response to the Trans Mountain decision likely to stall or kill the contentious pipeline expansion – a significant loss for Ms. Notley, who has guaranteed the line will be built.

The Alberta Premier said she had a private conversation with Mr. Trudeau on Thursday where she told him of her position. In her live address, she said if Ottawa “acts boldly and gives this crisis the attention it deserves,” construction on the pipeline expansion project to ship oil to international markets could restart again early in 2019.

“No one in Canada should accept that the only way to sell Canada’s resources is through the U.S.,” she said. “No other country on Earth would accept this and Canada shouldn’t either, especially when we are doing it to ourselves.”

The federal government declined to comment Thursday night on Ms. Notley’s statement.

The Federal Court of Appeal found that the Liberal government failed to adequately consult First Nations whose rights are affected by the pipeline expansion, while the National Energy Board failed to properly consider increased tanker traffic. Alberta officials believe the federal government can introduce legislation to explicitly declare the NEB is not required to look into marine shipping impacts as part of its regulatory process – and was not required to do so in respect to the Trans Mountain application.

The decision to nullify Ottawa’s approval of the Trans Mountain project is a political punch in the gut to Ms. Notley’s NDP government. Already, Ms. Notley’s New Democrats have been polling well behind Jason Kenney’s United Conservative Party. Mr. Kenney says he would scrap the carbon tax completely, as it renders the province’s oil and gas industry uncompetitive relative to other crude-producing jurisdictions.

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