A member of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's cabinet paid a visit Friday to repeat the announcement of a small grant to city hall Friday and attack the province's opposition to the federal carbon tax.
Federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna and Coun. Cindy Gilroy staged a news conference in city hall's courtyard to talk about Ottawa’s decision to provide a $1.3 million grant to make the Brady landfill’s methane gas capture system more efficient.
The funding was disclosed in April at a meeting of council’s environment committee, which is chaired by Gilroy.
McKenna said the funding demonstrated the Liberal government’s willingness to partner with municipalities, then she criticized the province for withdrawing its commitment for a carbon tax.
"It is important to recognize partnerships with cities. Unfortunately there is a narrative here in Manitoba that we aren’t willing to partner, and that’s coming from the province," she said.
"The reality is, we’re willing to partner with whomever wants to partner with us. Unfortunately, we’ve seen here the premier has flip-flopped when it came to putting a price on pollution."
McKenna spoke in defence of her government’s carbon tax policy, repeatedly accusing federal and provincial Conservatives from across the country of refusing to acknowledge the severity of impacts from climate change.
"It’s unfortunate that we have Conservative politicians, from Premier Pallister to Premier Ford, to (federal leader) Andrew Scheer, who seem not to understand the science behind climate change that shows climate change is increasingly an emergency, that we are paying the price for climate change right now, and we have the solution."
McKenna said Ottawa is still waiting to hear if the Manitoba government will endorse a recent federal initiative to provide $5 million to school boards across the province for environmental renovations projects, such as solar panels or insulation upgrades, explaining the province could provide additional funding or simply allocate the federal dollars.
A spokesman for Sustainable Development Minister Rochelle Squires said McKenna's blatant partisan attacks aren't helpful in building a relationship between the two levels of government.
"Picking fights with the provinces is not a progressive or helpful way to take action on the environment," the spokesman said, adding Manitoba is actively working with Ottawa on a range of environment issues, including funding to reduce pollution in the transportation sector.
On the eve of McKenna’s arrival to Winnipeg, Pallister criticized Ottawa for drumming up publicity over its plan to remit Manitobans’ share of the carbon-tax revenue to schools, dismissing it as part of the Liberal’s strategy for the October federal election.
"I have too much respect for the intelligence of Manitobans to know most certainly that they see right through this," Pallister said. "I don't think Manitobans will be convinced by this feeble effort by Ottawa to get publicity out of giving us back a little trinket."
The $5 million for school boards will be allocated on a federal formula with provincial input. If the province opt against remitting that money to school boards, the Liberals say they’ll do it on their own.
Pallister said his government hasn’t yet decided whether it will allocate the cash or let Ottawa take care of that; the province has until July 19 to tell Ottawa which option it’s chosen.
McKenna and Gilroy were joined at the event by local Liberal MPs Dan Vandal, Terry Duguid and Robert-Falcon Ouellette and Couns. Brian Mayes and Markus Chambers.
City hall had already committed $2.4 million to expand the methane gas-capture system at the landfill, which the city has acknowledged as the second-largest emitter of greenhouse gas emissions in the province.
The addition of the $1.3 million from Ottawa will increase the efficiency of the gas-capture system from 48 per cent to 75 per cent.
— with files from Dylan Robertson
Aldo Santin is a veteran newspaper reporter who first carried a pen and notepad in 1978 and joined the Winnipeg Free Press in 1986, where he has covered a variety of beats and specialty areas including education, aboriginal issues, urban and downtown development. Santin has been covering city hall since 2013.
Updated on Friday, July 12, 2019 at 1:37 PM CDT: Updates