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Killing the ‘carbon tax’ is back while some Conservatives seek credible climate plans


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By Stephanie Taylor and Mickey Djuric

A group of longtime Conservatives is advocating for leadership hopefuls to develop credible climate plans at the same time as cancelling the federal carbon price has emerged as one of the first promises out of the race.

Ken Boessenkool, executive director of the recently launched Conservatives for Clean Growth, said Friday it doesn’t view a consumer carbon price as the make-or-break feature of a good plan to tackle climate change.

The group announced itself shortly after the Tories began their search for a new leader and Candice Bergen, its interim leader, shelved the party’s support for the carbon price policy introduced by former leader Erin O’Toole. Bergen has left the matter to be decided in the leadership race.

On its website, Conservatives for Clean Growth defines itself as believing in the need for the party to have a “stable, credible, long-term” plan to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions.

“There are many ways to get there,” said Boessenkool, who previously served as an adviser to different conservative leaders, including former prime minister Stephen Harper. “There’s incentives or smart regulations, relying on technology.”

Pierre Poilievre, the high-profile Ottawa-area MP who was the first to declare his candidacy last month, travelled to Saskatchewan this week to release his energy policies, which began with a promise to cancel the Liberal government’s consumer carbon price.

Calling it a “tax,” Poilievre framed the issue to be one around cost and instead pledged that his environmental plan would focus on technology.

“I’m the only candidate for prime minister that will protect people’s paycheques and make life more affordable by cancelling the carbon tax,” he said in Regina on Friday.

Boessenkool said the new group, which he co-founded alongside former federal cabinet minister Lisa Raitt and ex-Alberta cabinet minister Jim Dinning, wants to work with any candidate on their proposals.

“What policy is Pierre Poilievre going to use to develop a credible climate change policy that is going to use technology? And that is the question that Conservatives should be asking him,” Boessenkool said.

“He said he’s going to address climate with technology — great, how?”

“If all Canadians hear about our climate plan is what we’re against, they can be forgiven for thinking, we’re against climate. And that’s not enough.”

In terms of details, Poilievre said he would put in place targets to reduce carbon-related emissions and then leave it up to provinces to decide how to proceed, naming off the use of nascent technology like carbon capture and storage as well as small modular nuclear reactors.

During his stop in Regina, he also trotted out popular rallying cries for party members to whom the development of the oil and gas industry matter, particularly those in Western Canada. He pledged to repeal a Liberal government ban on oil tankers off the coast of northern British Columbia as well as build more pipelines.

The renewed debate around carbon pricing and how Conservatives will handle climate policy more broadly comes after party members and some MPs reacted with shock at O’Toole’s decision to introduce one last spring, which was welcomed by researchers and different green technology advocacy groups.

His decision followed the plan former leader Andrew Scheer campaigned on during the 2019 federal election, which didn’t include a carbon price and was slammed by experts as insufficient.

Scheer, who appeared alongside Poilievre at his announcement Friday, was to formally endorse him that evening, making him the latest MP to do so.

“It seemed like when Mr. O’Toole adopted that policy, that it was the moment where the Conservatives had crossed the Rubicon on this issue,” said Michael Bernstein, executive director of Clean Prosperity, a non-profit that championed the Tories’ embrace of carbon pricing.

Almost one year later, Bernstein said it’s apparent that’s no longer the case.

“I don’t think it’s clear where they’re going to land,” he said.

Bernstein added that whatever happens one thing is for certain. Polling data shows voters in swing ridings, which Conservatives need to capture if they hope to form government in the next general election, support carbon pricing.

When it comes to how believable a climate plan could be without a carbon price, Bernstein said it’s doable, but it would mean having a heavier reliance on fuel standards to help drive down emissions, which would end up costing consumers more money in the long run.

So far, Poilievre is the lone candidate in the Conservative leadership race but others have until April 19 to declare.

Those considering running include former Quebec premier Jean Charest, who introduced a cap-and-trade system in that province, as well as Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown, who supported a carbon price levy when he was leader of Ontario’s Progressive Conservatives.

More recently, Brown penned a letter to Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland to forgo the federal carbon price increase planned for April 1.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 4, 2022.

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RCMP ‘gutted’ by death of Const. Rick O’Brien, 51, shot in B.C.: deputy commissioner

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RCMP Const. Rick O’Brien poses in this undated RCMP handout photo. The 51-year-old officer was shot and killed and two other officers were injured while executing a search warrant in Coquitlam, B.C., on Friday, Sept. 22, 2023, while a suspect was shot and is in hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, RCMP

By Nono Shen in Coquitlam

The death of another Mountie in British Columbia less than a year after the last killing “enrages” the lead officer in the province.

RCMP Deputy Commissioner Dwayne McDonald said Const. Rick O’Brien, 51, was shot dead and two other officers were injured on Friday as they tried to execute a search warrant in Coquitlam, B.C.

A suspect in his 20s was also shot and is in hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

O’Brien, who had a wife and children, was decorated for bravery in the rescue of victims during a home invasion within months of joining the RCMP in 2016.

“This is an extremely difficult and tragic day for our members,” McDonald said Friday. “Const. O’Brien led by example. He had a great sense of humour. He was well respected by his peers and he was loved in his community.”

He said O’Brien was part of a team from Ridge Meadows RCMP that had been serving a search warrant at a home in the neighbouring community of Coquitlam.

McDonald said O’Brien died at the scene. One injured officer is in hospital with non-life-threatening injuries, he said, while the other suffered minor injuries and was discharged.

While McDonald didn’t reveal details about the investigation, he said it was a long-term probe.

A procession of RCMP vehicles led an ambulance carrying O’Brien’s body from Coquitlam to Abbotsford later Friday.

O’Brien’s death comes just 11 months after the death of RCMP Const. Shaelyn Yang, who was stabbed to death while accompanying a Burnaby, B.C., city worker to a homeless campsite.

McDonald said the past year had been a tragic one for police departments across Canada.

“It hurts. It really hurts. I’m outraged,” he said. “To see police officers across this country killed trying to protect their communities enrages me.”

Policing was a second career for O’Brien, who worked with at-risk youth before joining the RCMP. His entire career was spent at the Ridge Meadows detachment.

Supt. Wendy Mehat, the officer in charge of Ridge Meadows, said speaking about the impact of O’Brien’s death was the most difficult moment of her career.

“Rick’s contribution to his work, and his fellow team members at this detachment was immeasurable. Rick loved visiting schools and helping students, doing presentations, supporting our detachment (with) food drives and sport events,” she said.

“He was truly exceptional, a hard worker and a good human being. His death is senseless and heartbreaking.” Mehat said.

McDonald said O’Brien’s death seemed to speak to an issue he and his colleagues across the country have been talking about.

“Perhaps painting police in a certain light … sometimes seems to encourage people to resist authority and disrespect the profession of policing and, quite honestly, fight the police,” he said.

“I’m not commenting on this particular instance. But I will say that this is a stark reminder that the police are here to help you.”

The Independent Investigations Office said in a statement that the officers went to a home in the Metro Vancouver city on Friday.

“While there, the attending officers became engaged in an altercation with a man which resulted in multiple officers being injured and the man being shot,” the statement said.

“Emergency Health Services transported all injured to hospital, but one of the officers who was shot succumbed to their injuries.”

Carley Hodges, a witness in the busy area of city, described a chaotic scene, with an officer receiving CPR as he was put in an ambulance, another officer with a wound on his leg and a tourniquet above it, and a man in handcuffs.

Hodges said there were “tons of police cars, ambulances and fire trucks coming in.”

Mehat said O’Brien’s death was “senseless and heartbreaking.”

“He simply went to work today, and he was killed, doing his duty and keeping his community safe. The hours, weeks and months ahead will be difficult to our communities and Maple Ridge, Pitt Meadows, Coquitlam and across the country.”

B.C. Solicitor General Mike Farnworth said he was shocked and saddened to learn of O’Brien’s death.

“All three officers are shining examples of the extraordinary individuals who chose to take on the challenging mantle of protecting the public.

“I have spoken to the local mayors, and we all agree that the death of an officer is a stark reminder of the dangers police face to keep us safe. They put their lives on the line every day to fulfil their oath to protect our communities.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau sent his condolences to O’Brien’s family, friends and colleagues on social media.

“And to the officers who were injured: I’m wishing you a fast and full recovery.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 22, 2023.

This is a corrected story. A previous version said police were trying to serve an arrest warrant.

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‘Freedom Convoy’ organizers’ trial on scheduled break until after Thanksgiving

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Tamara Lich arrives for her trial at the courthouse in Ottawa, on Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2023. Lich and fellow Freedom Convoy organizer Chris Barber are charged with mischief, obstructing police, counselling others to commit mischief and intimidation. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

By Laura Osman in Ottawa

The trial of “Freedom Convoy” organizers Tamara Lich and Chris Barber has begun a scheduled break that will continue until after Thanksgiving.

The court finished hearing the testimony of Serge Arpin, the chief of staff to Ottawa’s former mayor, on Friday.

He spoke about how the city responded to the protest that overwhelmed the downtown core for three weeks in early 2022.

Arpin also testified about his interactions with convoy organizers while working out a deal with former mayor Jim Watson to move big-rig trucks out of residential neighbourhoods.

The evidence was originally due to be wrapping up by this point in the trial, which had been scheduled to last 16 days, but Arpin is just the fourth witness to finish his testimony.

The trial was expected to hear from 22 witnesses, leaving the court to ponder how much more time will be needed to reach the finish line.

Justice Heather Perkins-McVey, who is overseeing the trial, has identified several dates in October and November. 

Lawrence Greenspon, the lawyer representing Lich, said he does not want to set new court dates until the Crown has established a new, more accurate time estimate for its case.

As of Friday, the trial is expected to resume Oct. 11.

Lich and Barber are charged with mischief and counselling others commit offences such as mischief and intimidation for their role in organizing and prolonging the demonstration.

The defence questioned Arpin Friday about how city council and staff attempted to put an end the protest. As the mayor’s chief of staff, Arpin told the court he sat in on every council meeting.

He was grilled about a bylaw change on Feb. 9 last year that banned idling in a vehicle unless the temperature fell at or below -15 C. The bylaw originally allowed idling if the temperature was below 5 C.

“City council … was attempting to freeze out the truckers and their families,” Greenspon told the court.

Arpin said he believed the intention was to bring the demonstration to an end.

Arpin was also involved in the deal between Watson, Lich and other organizers to move trucks out of residential neighbourhoods and onto Wellington Street, in front of Parliament Hill.

He texted back and forth with the convoy organizers’ lawyer Keith Wilson on Feb. 14 and 15 in an exchange that was filed as evidence in the trial.

The texts suggest city staff did not give protest organizers or their lawyers a heads-up about plans to file a court injunction against demonstrators who violated city bylaws.

“Just so you know, it is highly irregular for the city’s lawyers to have done this without providing us lawyers here with notice,” Wilson wrote to Arpin on Feb. 15.

“This could change everything.”

Arpin told Wilson he was under the impression they knew about the court filing, but said in court that he never informed them himself until after the injunction was granted by a judge.

Lawyers representing the convoy organizers were not given an opportunity to oppose the application in court at the time.

The deal between Lich and the mayor fell apart later that day when police would no longer allow trucks to move closer to Parliament.

Arpin confirmed the police service underwent a change in command that day as a result of the police chief’s resignation.

He apologized to Wilson at the time, the text messages show.

“Our goal has always been de-escalation and I know you share this goal,” he texted to Wilson on the 16th.

The Crown hopes to pick up its case in October with eight local witnesses from Ottawa who lived or worked downtown during the Freedom Convoy protest.

Lich and Barber have already admitted that there was mischief taking place in the protest zone.

Greenspon has argued that the testimony of those witnesses would be akin to victim impact statements, and therefore shouldn’t be allowed to be heard during the trial.


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