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Brian Mulroney urges ‘prudence’ on carbon price decision

The man once voted Canada’s “greenest” prime minister says there’s a potential danger for this country to force a price on carbon if the United States doesn’t follow suit.

“We know that as soon as we render ourselves uncompetitive and our neighbours ready to pounce, then we’re in difficulty at home,” Brian Mulroney told host Chris Hall on CBC Radio’s The House, after announcing plans for a new institute and hall named in his honour at St. Francis Xavier University this week.

Earlier this month, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said provinces have until 2018 to adopt a carbon pricing scheme or the federal government will step in and impose a price for them. Provinces have the option of crafting a cap-and-trade system or putting a direct price on carbon pollution.

The premiers of Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia have criticized the government’s plan to set that price at $10 per tonne starting in 2018, rising by $10 each year to $50 a tonne by 2022.

BRIAN MULRONEY

Prime Minister Brian Mulroney arrives at a Washington TV studio with then Canadian ambassador Derek Burney in 1989 for an interview. The acid rain treaty Mulroney reached with the U.S. is seen as part of his environmental legacy. (Ron Poling/The Canadian Press)

‘Keep an eye’ on U.S.A

Mulroney said Canada should move with “prudence” on the file and “keep a close eye on what’s happening in the United States of America,” where neither Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump nor Democrat candidate Hillary Clinton are interested in introducing a national price on carbon.

“Geography can’t stop the flow of air and the movements of the waters and the oceans. What we do has to be in communion with other great trading nations,” Mulroney said in the interview airing Saturday morning. “I am for a pristine environment, always have been, and am ready to listen to any reasonable arguments.” 

In 2006, Corporate Knights, a magazine put out by high-profile environmentalists, crowned Mulroney Canada’s “greenest” prime minister, largely due to the 1991 signing of the Acid Rain Accord with former U.S. president George Bush to reduce emissions of sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides. 

The former Progressive Conservative Party of Canada leader also played a role in the Montreal Protocol, a United Nationals agreement that phased out of the production of a number of substances harmful to the earth’s ozone layer. 

“My government was, I think, ahead of the curve, I hope anyways, on these important climate change issues,” said Mulroney.