Charest defends his greenhouse-gas position

RIVIERE-DU-LOUP, Que. — He was shoulder to shoulder with Stephen Harper on Tuesday but Premier Jean Charest stood firm in his public scolding of the prime minister last month for failing to back tougher targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

RIVIERE-DU-LOUP, Que. — He was shoulder to shoulder with Stephen Harper on Tuesday but Premier Jean Charest stood firm in his public scolding of the prime minister last month for failing to back tougher targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“There’s not a single word I would change,” Charest said at a ceremony in eastern Quebec announcing funding for an environmental project.

“Frankly, I’m still mystified by some people who were bothered by my comments because I’m trying to see what it is exactly that I would have said that would have bothered anyone.”

Charest publicly excoriated Harper at a major climate-change conference in Copenhagen last month for not supporting more aggressive targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“Greenhouse gas emissions and the whole issue of climate change is one of the most important issues facing mankind,” Charest said.

“Quebec and Canada will be among the ecosystems that will be the most affected by this phenomena of climate change. That’s why we feel very strongly about this issue.”

The premier says Quebec has set out ambitious plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and combat climate change. He said he has always been ready to work with Ottawa toward that goal.

“We always take and make an effort to take a very balanced view on the positions that they defend,” he added.

“When we don’t agree, we are going to express our views and our convictions as we see them.”

Harper said he doesn’t see any problem in working with Charest.

“Governments don’t always agree but that doesn’t mean we don’t work together when we share objectives,” Harper said in response to a reporter who suggested the Quebec and federal environment plans seem to come from parallel universes.

“We’re not going to always agree but that doesn’t mean we’re miles apart, it doesn’t mean we don’t work together on the things we have in common as we have done and will continue to do, particularly on important environment projects that everyone supports.”

The premier said Quebec is not simply trying to be contrary.

“We work very honestly with the federal government and our view is we were not elected to create problems, we were not elected to fight with them,” Charest said.

Harper pointed out that Canada is part of the Copenhagen accord to reduce greenhouse gases and is working with U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration on a continental cap-and-trade system.

He said he had spoken to Charest about this and that Charest had discussed some of Quebec’s ambitions for hydroelectric power with him.

The two men were attending a news conference in Riviere-du-Loup, Que., where they announced financial contributions to a $14.7-million environmental project in nearby Cacouna.