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Danielle Smith calls on ‘reasonable’ ministers to counter Guilbeault’s influence in cabinet

Alberta Premier Danielle Smith says the fact that Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault continues to spearhead the federal government’s climate agenda means the ministers around him will have to work harder to achieve a “balanced approach.”

“The fact that we have five cabinet ministers that we’re dealing with — four of them are reasonable, one of them is not,” Smith told host Catherine Cullen in an interview on CBC’s The House airing Saturday.

“I’m hoping that the four reasonable ones are able to carry the day because we can have a deal with the federal government that is good for industry, good for the environment, good for consumers, good for the planet, good for our trade partners.

“And it’s a matter of making sure Guilbeault is not the one who carries the day because he’s the one, unfortunately, who is sending mixed messages and it’s not helpful.”

WATCH | Environment minister discusses end to some oil and gas subsidies 

danielle smith calls on reasonable ministers to counter guilbeaults influence in cabinet

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Environment minister lays roadmap to ending fossil fuel subsidies in Canada

5 days ago

Duration 2:06

Federal Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault laid out the government’s plan to phase out subsidies for fossil fuel extraction in Canada. But critics argue the changes don’t go far enough and there are too many exceptions.

Guilbeault is one of a handful of ministers who retained their positions after a massive cabinet shuffle earlier this week. Smith and some other provincial leaders have clashed repeatedly with Guilbeault over federal climate policy.

Smith said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s decision to retain Guilbeault “tells me that his colleagues are going to have to do a lot more to advocate for a balanced approach at the table. He shouldn’t be the only one out there deciding policy.”

For his part, Guilbeault has sought a more conciliatory tone in his relationship with Smith.

“I wouldn’t say things are great,” he told The House last month. “I’m saying we have our differences, but we have also the capacity to work them out.”

In a statement sent to CBC News on Friday, Guilbeault’s office said he remains committed to close cooperation with the provinces. The statement said the minister visited Alberta recently and he and the provincial government worked effectively to create regulations on heavy emitters and carbon capture systems.

“Putting politics aside, we will keep coming to the table in the spirit of collaboration to improve the lives of Albertans,” said the statement.

The federal government and Alberta also have agreed to set up a working group on energy issues.

LISTEN | The federal-provincial fight over the environment:

CBC News: The House16:02The next round in the Alberta-Ottawa fight begins

Danielle Smith’s victory in this week’s provincial election in Alberta sets the stage for more conflict between the province and the federal government over energy and climate change policy. Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault speaks to host Catherine Cullen about whether he and Smith can get on the same page. Guilbeault also weighs in on how Canada can deal with a destructive wildfire season, then Emily Croft, a captain with the Hubbards, N.S. volunteer fire department, describes her team’s experience fighting the blaze.

Smith’s comments come after weeks of back-and-forth over the federal government’s approach to climate change policy. The federal government recently unveiled its plan to end “inefficient” fossil fuel subsidies and is working on regulations to set an emissions cap on the oil and gas sector — something Smith calls a de facto production cap.

Ontario’s Environment Minister David Piccini also criticized Guilbeault for travelling abroad to represent Canada at a meeting of G20 environment ministers (where he sought an agreement on ending unabated fossil fuel projects), instead of remaining in Canada to meet with provincial ministers.

Several areas of conflict

While Guilbeault has faced opposition at home over the government’s climate change agenda, he’s also run into resistance abroad. G20 environment ministers meeting in India recently were unable to reach a deal to put an end to unabated fossil fuel projects.

“Now I will be clear — our fight to keep 1.5 degrees alive continues. But we need to continue working to build consensus on the phase-out of unabated fossil fuels, which we didn’t quite get here,” Guilbeault told reporters.

“The fact that we couldn’t agree here at the G20 is not the end. We will continue.”

Canada's Minister of the Environment and Climate Change Steven Guilbeault speaks at the GLOBE Forum 2022 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada March 29, 2022. REUTERS/Jennifer Gauthier
Federal Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault says the government isn’t giving up on its plan to end unabated fossil fuel projects. (REUTERS/Jennifer Gauthier)

Ottawa’s goal of ending unabated fossil fuel projects is just one source of tension with Alberta. Smith also insists the goal of achieving a net-zero electricity grid is “unachievable.”

The federal government’s emissions goals are also unrealistic, she said.

“[Industry] can’t get to 42 per cent [reduction] in seven years. They’ve got pipelines that they need to build. They’ve got new technology they need to develop for carbon capture,” she said. “We also have to develop a brand new regulatory framework for nuclear like that. That can’t be done in seven years.”

Throughout the interview, Smith sought to draw a distinction between the goal of reducing oil and gas production and the goal of lowering emissions.

“We are not phasing out this industry. We’re not phasing out oil. We’re not phasing out natural gas,” she said. “We are phasing out emissions, and there’s a very big difference between the two.”

Fundamentally, Smith said, Alberta and the federal government do agree on the target of net-zero by 2050.

“We agree with the aspiration, but we don’t agree on how to get there,” Smith told Cullen.

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