Biden to shore up Canada ties before Trump inauguration

OTTAWA: US Vice President Joe Biden brought reassurances to Canada on Friday that its historically close relationship with America will not suffer under Donald Trump's administration.

The two-day visit to Ottawa, which started with a dinner hosted by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau Thursday, comes as Canada's regional leaders met in the capital to finalise a national climate strategy.

Biden was expected to address the 10 provincial leaders before they announce an agreement on a national carbon price.

The American vice president, lawmaker Wayne Easter told AFP, came "to calm the waters after some of the rhetoric heard during the campaign, and to reassure the political leadership in Canada on the change in administration in the United States."

While campaigning this year, Trump warned that US environmental regulations were hamstringing businesses.

He has pledged to boost the oil and gas sector and revive the coal industry.

And his pick Thursday of fossil fuel industry ally Scott Pruitt, a global warming skeptic, to head the Environmental Protection Agency has further cast doubts over America's commitment to battle climate change.

The EPA both determines and implements US international commitments on climate.

But Easter, the co-chair of the Canada-US inter-parliamentary group, suggested that Trump might soften some of his positions after he comes into office next month.

"Governing is much harder than taking policy positions as an outsider during a political campaign," he said.

'Bumps in the road'

Easter pointed to strong trade and security linkages that have and will survive "bumps in the road."

Climate policy promises to be a sticking point, as the two neighbours appear to be headed down different paths.

Trudeau has staked out his political future by aligning with US President Barack Obama on combating climate change, notably on the phasing out of coal-fired power plants.

Under Trudeau's plan, carbon pollution would cost Can$10 (RM33.52) a tonne in 2018, rising incrementally to Can$50 (USD$38) a tonne by 2022.

The provinces, which share environmental responsibilities with the feds, can choose to implement a carbon tax or a cap-and-trade system.

Holdouts would have a price imposed by Ottawa.

Despite taking a hard line on emissions, Trudeau has approved major expansions of two pipelines to get more Alberta crude oil to tidewater and to the United States.

But he rejected a third project through a temperate rain forest to the Pacific Coast.

Trump, meanwhile, has said he would fast-track approvals for the controversial Keystone XL pipeline from Alberta to US Gulf Coast refineries, which Obama rejected under pressure from environmental activists.

With Biden's visit, officials will likely discuss how Canada can continue to manage its Paris commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent, compared with 2005 levels, by 2030, "if there is a change in the approach on the US side," Easter said.

"We don't want to create a situation where our businesses become non-competitive" with US firms, he added.

Quebec and Ontario have joined a cap-and-trade market with California, and Easter said there were more such deals taking place at the state or provincial level rather than the national level. — AFP