Saskatchewan and Ottawa commit to working together on environmental policies

REGINA — The Saskatchewan and federal governments say they are willing to collaborate with each other on environmental policies.

Federal Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson said Wednesday the two levels of government need to figure out ways to work together to ensure there's progress toward reaching net-zero greenhouse gas emissions.

The federal government has said it wants to reach a net-zero grid by 2035, while Saskatchewan says Ottawa's initial target of net-zero by 2050 is more realistic.

"We need to be actually sitting down and having conversations about how we move these things forward," Wilkinson said.

"As somebody who grew up in this province, I bemoan the fact that there seems to be this view that we can't actually have an appropriate conversation."

The province's SaskPower Corporation has stated having net-zero electricity by 2035 would be difficult despite efforts to reduce its emissions by replacing conventional coal with lower emitting generation.

Wilkinson said he has heard Saskatchewan's concerns about the Clean Electricity Standard and consultations with the provinces continue.

"The federal government has a role to play in helping provinces make the kinds of changes that would need to be made in order to actually achieve the clean grid," Wilkinson said.

"The work that we have to do on the grid is kind of the railroad of this century. It's an enormous undertaking, it will only happen if we work together."

Premier Scott Moe agreed the two levels of government need to find ways to come together on environmental policies, as they've done in the past with child care and economic measures during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"We're all Canadian first," Moe said Wednesday.

"We need to come back together as Canadians, to support one another and really put forward, and reinvent the great nation I believe we once were and can still be."

Their shared areas of interest include carbon capture technology, small modular reactors, natural gas plants and rare-earth elements production.

Wilkinson was in Saskatchewan for the launch of a new solar power project by Cowessess First Nation, which will help power 2,500 homes annually.

He also met with his provincial counterpart, Jim Reiter, to discuss the province's priorities and the Saskatchewan First Act, which looks to unilaterally amend the Constitution to reassert the province's jurisdiction over its natural resources.

Danielle Smith, Alberta's new United Conservative Party premier, plans to table a similar sovereignty act to resist federal laws and court rulings it deems against provincial interests, but her office has maintained it would remain onside with the Constitution.

Wilkinson said he has read Saskatchewan's act and wasn't opposed to the bill, which still needs to pass in the legislature.

"It's all well and good for the province to actually say that the provincial jurisdiction is provincial jurisdiction," he said.

"But at the end of the day, I think that the federation works best when we work together and I intend to continue to work collaboratively with my colleagues here in Saskatchewan."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 9, 2022.

Mickey Djuric, The Canadian Press