As previously noted, the Harper government was keen to pursue a continental cap-and-trade system in 2008 and 2009. At the time it seemed that the American administration was equally keen. After President Obama’s plans came apart, the Harper government decided continental cap-and-trade wasn’t possible.
In a January 2011 speech, Peter Kent still spoke of the need to coordinate with the United States and in May 2011, Mr. Kent allowed that cap-and-trade “can always be something to consider in the future.” But by that time, the Conservatives had already said that the cap-and-trade proposal of the Liberals was “unCanadian” and the cap-and-trade proposal of the NDP would “wreak enormous havoc on the Canadian economy.” Earlier this month, Mr. Kent declared that cap-and-trade and a carbon tax were equivalent and now the Conservative party is running attack ads that warn Thomas Mulcair, who has proposed a cap-and-trade system, would impose a carbon tax.
So the Conservatives were previously in favour of cap-and-trade and against a carbon tax, but now they oppose cap-and-trade because, they say, it’s the same thing as a carbon tax.
But what would happen now or in the future were an American government to decide again to pursue cap-and-trade? I asked Mr. Kent’s office about that scenario: In the past, Minister Kent has spoken of the need to harmonize or align environmental policy with the United States. If lawmakers in the United States decided to pursue a cap-and-trade system, would the Harper government cooperate with efforts to create a continental cap-and-trade system or would the Harper government refuse to participate?