The Liberals will be prioritizing measures to end the COVID-19 pandemic as they set their legislative agenda for this fall, according to Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc.

That will include going forward with a vaccine mandate for federal employees, as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised Tuesday, and creating a vaccine passport for international travel.

On the climate change file, LeBlanc insisted that Canada will enjoy a warm reception at the upcoming COP26 climate conference in Glasgow, despite the Liberal government’s failure to meet greenhouse gas emissions targets.

“I hope that many of our international partners will welcome a very ambitious, robust, coherent and effective plan to tackle climate change that we laid out for Canadians this past year and then again during the election,” LeBlanc told As It Happens host Carol Off. 

Here is part of their conversation.

What are you taking from Canadians’ refusal to give you the majority you wanted?

Obviously, we accept that Canadians re-elected a Liberal government, but a minority Parliament. The prime minister said it on election night. He said it a number of times, since. We’re going to work with opposition parties. We think there are a considerable number of areas where our priorities would overlap with those of opposition parties. So we’re going to get to work quickly. And obviously the main focus will be finishing the fight against COVID.

But you can appreciate a lot of Canadians are scratching their head over some of the language we’ve heard from Mr. Trudeau since the election, that he has this strong mandate now. He yesterday [was] talking about moving faster and stronger with the fact that the Liberals won [at] the same time that you had 32 per cent of the vote. I mean, more people voted for the Conservatives. And in fact, 67 per cent of those who voted chose other parties. So where does this strong mandate come from?

I think the strong mandate comes from the fact that we won the election. We have a minority government. We increased our seats. [Conservative Leader Erin] O’Toole certainly claimed throughout a good part of the campaign that he expected to form a government. He, [in] fact, diminished his seats. But at the end of the day, there is a government that has an important job to do at a critical time in our country’s history….

If you look at things as important as a strong position on mandatory vaccines, for example, for the public service or for people who want to take a train or an airplane, there was a considerable overlap in what some opposition parties, not Mr. O’Toole, but the other opposition parties were proposing and what we’re proposing.

So we expect to be able to collaborate quite constructively, very quickly this fall and implement a number of commitments we made to Canadians.

From left, Liberals Dominic LeBlanc, Jenica Atwin and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during the federal election campaign. The federal government is prioritizing measures on their fall agenda to tackle the latest wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. (Sean Kilpatric/The Canadian Press)

One of the first acts that your government will have on the international stage is to go to Glasgow for the climate summit that is considered by most of the world to be in the most crucial time of decision making about climate change…. Since Justin Trudeau ratified the Paris Agreement, Canada’s CO2 emissions have only increased, and they’ve increased faster than any other G7 nation. So is this going to be a bit of a day of reckoning for Canada on the international stage? I mean, how do you think you’ll be received in Glasgow when you show up with this record?

I would think that a number of these international organizations have taken note of … the plan that we laid out, including legislative measures to get the country to net zero with five-year, transparent, legislated requirements to measure how the country’s doing. Capping, for example, emissions in the oil and gas sector, a series of measures, an increasing price on pollution.

These were all measures that we put into place in the last year and a half. We believe that Canada — and experts have confirmed that — is on track to exceed the Paris targets, recognizing that perhaps three, four years ago we didn’t get to where we wanted to be. But the current plan and the strengthened plan that we announced, we believe will exceed those targets….

We outlined more ambitious targets, as many other countries have done that we’ll be taking to Glasgow. So we intend our government will be an active, constructive participant at the climate conference in Glasgow. And we, frankly, would welcome ideas from international partners and others as to how we can be the most constructive international player possible in these conversations.

We heard from Greta Thunberg yesterday in Italy, saying that what she is hearing, and I’m wondering if she would include what you just have answered, is that it’s the “blah, blah, blah” of the climate change discussion. That these commitments are made, as you did make in 2016 to have, quote, “An ambitious plan to reduce emissions,” though the emissions grew.

And now … you’re reiterating what the plan is. What would you say to Greta Thunberg, who thinks that a lot of what she’s hearing from countries like Canada is “blah, blah, blah?”

I obviously don’t share that pessimism. We have taken note of the impatience Canadians have all across the country for governments, … that includes obviously provincial governments, to be constructive, aggressive and effective in lowering our emissions and exceeding the Paris targets and coming up with a constructive plan that will do so in a way that will benefit the Canadian economy going forward.

We have every reason, certainly as a government, to be optimistic on the support of Canadians for effective action. You know, you even saw Mr. O’Toole and the Conservatives in the last campaign accepting that a price on pollution — even if it’s a weak, watered-down one that they suggested — is an effective measure to reduce Canada’s emissions. These were the same people that were parading off to the Supreme Court to try and block our government from actually bringing in a price on pollution.

So in two years, there has been a significant, I think, understanding on the part of Canadians, on business leaders and on governments, including provincial government partners. So I’m quite optimistic that the country is on track to exceed our targets. But obviously, anybody who has constructive suggestions of how the country can go further, faster? We’re open to those conversations. And that, we hope, will be part of the discussion in Glasgow.

Written by Andrea Bellemare. Interview produced by Kevin Robertson. Q&A edited for length and clarity.

Source From CBC News

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