Trudeau and premiers agree on climate plan, but not carbon price

Plus, a new top dog at city hall and Vancouver’s economy is the fastest growing in Canada

A meeting of ministers
Against the backdrop of Vancouver harbour at the city’s convention centre, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Canada’s 13 premiers announced Thursday that they had agreed upon a framework for a climate plan, following a tense week of negotiations. “The transition to a low carbon economy will happen by a broad suite of measures that will include pricing carbon,” said Trudeau. “That is something that we have all committed to.” He outlined plans to increase funding for electric vehicles and public transportation, amongst other measures.

What was not agreed upon however was a national price on carbon, which was a Liberal electoral promise last fall, and a divisive topic in the lead-up to Thursday’s meeting. The proposal drew fire from Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall, and Newfoundland Premier Dwight Ball. And it was Premier Ball who spoke after Trudeau on Thursday, stating that while he and his colleagues agreed on the plan, they were nonetheless “closely watching oil prices” and the downturn in the Canadian economy before taking further action. A final decision on a strategy to reduce greenhouse emissions, he said, would be deferred until the next all-premiers meeting in October.

Thursday’s first ministers’ meeting was the first major federal-provincial confab since Canada signed a landmark agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions at COP 21 in Paris last November and the second since Trudeau took office. It also happened amid a three-day clean tech industry conference, hosted in the same complex. While the premiers and Trudeau met on the west side of the convention center, a motley crew of clean tech executives and entrepreneurs, federal ministers, environmentalists and federal ministers mixed at the biannual GLOBE 2016 sustainability conference, or what the Walrus billed Climate’s Prom.

A steady stream of federal, provincial and municipal leaders—among them, federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna, federal Energy Minister Jim Carr, Green Party leader Elizabeth May, Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner, Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson and Premier Christy Clark—spoke on panels over the course of Wednesday and Thursday, all promoting the country’s clean tech sector, and in some cases, announcing new funding promises.

At GLOBE on Wednesday, Trudeau announced that his government would set aside $50 million in the next budget to help improve the country’s building codes, $75 million to help cities adapt to climate change, and $150 million for a clean technology fund. Premier Christy Clark, speaking after him, announced new funding and privileges for electric vehicles, and expressed a willingness to increase B.C.’s carbon tax.

Fastest growing city
Vancouver’s streak as Canada’s fastest growing metropolitan economy will continue well into 2016, according to a Conference Board of Canada forecast released Thursday. “Vancouver is projected to be the only Canadian metro region that will post economic growth above three per cent this year—nearly double the national average,” said Alan Arcand, associate director for the Centre for Municipal Studies at the Conference Board. Vancouver’s growth rate is expected to increase from three per cent to 3.3 per cent thanks to large construction projects, like the expansion at YVR, and a busy summer tourism season driven by the low loonie.

New city manager
The man who was supposed to be a fill-in while the City of Vancouver hunted for a new city manager was permanently appointed to the position on Thursday. The selection of Sadhu Johnston, who was appointed acting city manager after his predecessor, Penny Ballem, was fired last September, closes the city’s four-month search for a new top civil servant.