Alberta Finance Minister Toews spars with feds over who needs to step up with incentives

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Ottawa and Alberta remain at odds over who is responsible for industrial subsidies after an in-person meeting of finance ministers Friday.

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UCP Finance Minister Travis Toews sat down with his provincial and territorial counterparts and federal Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland to discuss global economic pressures and a looming transition to a low-carbon economy.

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At a news conference Friday afternoon in Toronto, Freeland said the provinces and territories need to pitch in to help the federal government compete with the American Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), which offers massive subsidies to US-made products.

“We need to work together to build Canada’s 21st-century economy… This is not an Ottawa-Washington conversation. This is a conversation between Canadians and companies who are thinking about where to invest,” Freeland said.

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“The Americans are effectively incentivizing investment in clean tech. Our Canadian government is taking a punitive approach — they’re threatening emissions caps that are completely unrealistic,” he said, referring to the federal government’s goal of reducing the oil and gas sector’s emissions by 42 per cent.

When asked by reporters what Freeland expected the provinces to do and what the budget might do to compete with the US bill, the federal finance minister refused to offer any specifics.

She did say that while Canada has a skilled workforce and in-demand natural resources, the IRA has “changed the playing field” in terms of global competition for capital.

“The federal government has already put in place very powerful tax incentives that apply across the board to attract new capital,” she said, while acknowledging more needs to be done.

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Freeland added that it was important to talk about how new spending needs to be targeted and focused on building a more sustainable economy.

“The global net zero transition is the most significant economic transformation since the Industrial Revolution,” said Freeland.

Last week, Alberta Premier Danielle Smith published an open letter to Trudeau seeking to meet individually with the prime minister to discuss upcoming federal legislation aimed at helping energy workers get jobs in a low-carbon economy.

Since then, the request for a one-on-one meeting has been shirked, but a response from federal ministers pointed to the federal and provincial government’s combined $476 million investment in a $1.6 billion Air Products hydrogen facility in Edmonton, and a newly-announced $720 million Imperial Oil renewable diesel plant in Strathcona, near Edmonton.

Friday’s finance minister’s meeting comes less than a week before a meeting of premiers and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to discuss health-care funding transfers.

On Friday, Toews didn’t directly commit to any data sharing conditions, but asserted Ottawa’s funding needs to come with no strings attached.

“We remain hopeful in Alberta that the prime minister is going to come forward with a good proposal, with a good offer,” he said.

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