Federal Natural Resource Minister Jonathan Wilkinson remains hopeful that Saskatchewan will work with the federal government on shared energy priorities.
Wilkinson, who spoke at a Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce event in Regina on Wednesday, reiterated that he believes both sides can reach a middle ground after Ottawa and the province clashed over differing net-zero plans.
He said that it’s important that the federal and provincial governments work together despite conflicting political affiliations.
“The economic future of Canadians depends on their governments, provincial, territorial, federal, and municipal, making the right decisions to make sure Canada will thrive in a lower carbon world,” he said. “The focus of any relevant plan for the future has to be on an economy that works for all Canadians in every province and territory in this country.”
It was earlier this month that Wilkinson sent a letter to Premier Scott Moe after Moe said the province would not meet Ottawa’s target for electricity emissions to be net-zero by 2035.
Moe said Saskatchewan would be able to meet a 2050 target, but the 2035 target is not achievable and would harm the province’s economy and cause electricity to be unaffordable and unreliable.
That 2035 target is part of Ottawa’s clean electricity standards, which are still under development. Wilkinson said the 2035 target is possible, affordable and desirable.
“Here in Saskatchewan, we are, I am, very keen to partner with the province on economic priorities that it has identified. My view is that through a mechanism such as this, where we can work to align strategies, financial resources, regulations and permitting, we can make significant progress for the Saskatchewan economy in areas where there is no significant disagreement between the federal and provincial governments.”
He outlined numerous projects that have seen federal-provincial collaboration, including the BHP Jansen Potash mine, renewable energy projects with the Cowessess First Nation Foreign Mining Copper Proposal and the Saskatchewan Research Council’s critical minerals processing facility.
Wilkinson said he feels those projects are just the tip of the iceberg as to what both sides could achieve.
“In my mind, much more could be done if we approach such economic conversations in a more integrated and more collaborative way,” he said. “The Government of Saskatchewan rejected the idea of setting up such a collaborative table. I think this is unfortunate.”
“However, I continue to discuss important economic matters with my counterparts, and I remain hopeful that Saskatchewan and Canada will find a pathway to collaborate more closely on how we can work together to build an economy that will provide good jobs and economic opportunity for Saskatchewan in a lower carbon future,” he continued.
The minister has been working with each province to create regional energy and resource tables, forums that would identify areas where both jurisdictions can move forward on shared priorities and accelerate economic activity.
Wilkinson said that creating a regional energy and resource table for Saskatchewan would be able to look at the unique circumstances and priorities of the province.
“I recognize that there are political differences between this federal government and this provincial government. I think sometimes we just need to find ways to set those differences aside and work on areas where we actually don’t disagree,” he said. “That is why I am hopeful that we can actually have a better way to engage those conversations.”
He said that there are two paths for the country to take.
“The first accept the scientific reality of climate change and understands that it’s something we can and that we must address. It also accepts the fact that the world is moving increasingly in this direction.”
“The second path shrugs off the damage that climate change is already causing, the dramatic floods that we see in towns and cities. The dramatic fires in our forests that we are seeing across the country in almost every province and territory right now,” he said. “It pretends that climate concern is a fad that effectively will fade and that we don’t really need to do anything.”
Wilkinson added to those in attendance that he hopes that all Saskatchewan and Canadian residents push their leaders to address climate change, as there are two paths the country can take when it comes to addressing climate change.
with files from The Canadian Press