PositionProceedings of the 43rd Canada-United States Law Institute Annual Conference: Can the United States and Canada Cooperate on Climate Change? - Discussion

Moderator: Consul General Joseph Comartin

Speaker: The Honorable James J. Blanchard

Speaker: The Honorable James S. Peterson

Speaker: The Honorable Peter MacKay

MR. PETRAS: Our next panel consists of ambassadors and ministers roundtable, and their selection is "what are the prospects for high-level coordination in Canada and the United States?

Our moderator for this panel is Consul General Joseph Comartin. He is the Consul General for Canada in Detroit, and he is a lawyer. He started out his practice in Windsor, Ontario, and then he decided to go into politics, and for 15 years, he was a member of the New Democratic Party in the House of Commons in Canada.

He was--he got very strong support from the local union members with a seat in the House of Commons. He was reelected four times and was the opposition house leader from 2011 to 2012. He is now Consul General for Canada in Detroit, and he is going to introduce this panel and lead this discussion.


CONSUL GENERAL COMARTIN: Thanks, Stephen. I have been joking about this cold, but I didn't get it when I was in Canada. I got it after I came to the United States, so I am blaming the United States for it, and that's because Windsor is south of Michigan, not north of Michigan or the United States as most or the rest of the continent is divided.

Let me start by introducing our panelists, first with Ambassador Blanchard, James Blanchard. I have got to say I have a whole bunch of material on him, but the only thing that is really important is that he was the ambassador to Canada. Everything else doesn't hale by comparison.

I think you also know that he was governor of the state of Michigan for a good number of years. He is presently practicing law as a partner and chair emeritus of the government affairs practice group in Washington, but he spends a fair amount of time in both Michigan at his cottage and in the Detroit area and his home.

Our second panelist is Jim Peterson. Jim was in parliament along with Peter. The three of us were in parliament at various times together. He is a former federal minister, secretary of state. He is currently of counsel at the law firm of Fasken Martineau.


CONSUL GENERAL COMARTIN: Yeah. And in his role as minister, he was the minister of international trade, secretary of state for international financial institutions. He was also chair of the House of Commons standing committee on finance, which is probably the most powerful standing committee in our parliament.

As a former minister of international trade between 2003 and 2006, Jim has developed expertise in trade policy and experience in trade disputes. I think what is particularly interesting is some of the work he did while minister, he represented Canada at the World Trade Organization, a round of negotiations. Those focused on expanding trade and investment and leading emerging markets, including Brazil, Russia, India, and China. He also dealt with complex issues related with trade with Canada's NAFTA partners, European Union, Middle East, and the Americas. So he has a wide base across the globe in terms of Jim's experience.

Our third panelist is Peter MacKay. The only thing I remember about Peter, I was also -Stephen had mentioned--I was also deputy speaker of the House of Commons for the last three years. I remember one time I was bugging him about judicial appointments. This is when he was minister of justice, and he actually tried to bribe me, he said "look, okay, I will make you a judge then," and I said "Peter, that's like really improper. You shouldn't do that," and he withdrew the offer.

But he was the justice minister for a number of years. He served in the parliament for over 18 years. I thought we had started at the same time, but you are three years ahead of me.

He had several important ministerial positions in addition to the minister of justice of Canada, a very interesting point at this point. You are both the attorney general and the minister of justice. That's a hot point in Canada right now.

He was the minister of national defense minister of foreign affairs, minister of Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency.

In 2003, Peter was the--elected as the head of the conservative party, and at that point, he led the, I guess, campaign to merge the party with another conservative party into the conservative party of Canada where he became deputy leader.

He is presently--he left parliament in '15,1 think that was, or '11. But he is currently serving on a number of volunteer boards. He is practicing law with a large firm in Toronto. He serves on a whole bunch of boards.

I am not going to list them all, but maybe I will: National Board of Special Olympics, Canada; Boost Child Youth Advocacy Centre, Wounded Warriors, Canada, supports Children's Aid Society, Big Brothers, Big Sisters at Acadia University and Canada-United States Law Institute, which is why he is here today. Okay.

We can start. What we did in preparation for this was to take a look at--obviously, you heard a good deal of the factual situation of what we are confronted with climate change. Obviously, we have, as politicians, as leaders right around the globe taken a number of steps to confront this problem. I think probably the most recent one that we are all generally aware of was the Paris Agreement, determined at that point certain levels of CO2 and greenhouse gas generally that would meet and every country in the world that signed on to the agreement had specific standards that they had to meet.

Unfortunately, the United States has now indicated they are going to pull out. They actually can't do it under the agreement until 2020, but China and Russia are not major participants either on this, so that's in terms of framework. Most of the other countries have, in fact, abided by the obligations they took on, some a bit slower than others, but it is working.

The hope is that at some point the United States, China, and Russia will come on. Obviously, all three of them are major emitters of greenhouse gases.

I think the other interesting point in terms of setting the scene from a government standpoint, if I can, was some of the points that John Godfrey made last night at the keynote address, and that is the work that subnational governments, municipalities, community groups states and provinces, that governments at that level, how they have taken up the torch. They are the ones who are pushing this and a number of countries greater than the national government is.

When you see the type of information that we had, it was a clear indication, this is a local issue. It is a world issue, but it very much impacts at the local level when you see those kind of numbers, the flooding, all the other financial consequences of climate change, that that is going on at that level.

So today what we are hoping to do is from our three panelists is have them address some of the problems they see, that government officials, both elected and appointed, have in terms of dealing with the climate change.

So let me start--I did send around some questions that we have had an opportunity to prepare and not springing these on them.

I think the initial point that I would want to have addressed is the fact that Canada has and the United States are going--and I am talking national governments now--are going in somewhat different directions and levels of commitment in terms of dealing with climate change.

So my question is to the three panelists--and I will start, Jim, with you--what are the implications for North America and for the globe overall by this difference between Canada and the United States?

GOVERNOR BLANCHARD: Well, I really enjoyed the earlier presentation, also John Godfrey's last night, and also I want to thank the Consul for its continued support of this conference and the Institute, and Joe, welcome CONSUL GENERAL COMARTIN: Thank you.

GOVERNOR BLANCHARD:--officially to our ranks and Maureen as well.

You all know that President Trump had his people withdraw from the Paris Calamint Court. They also withdrew from the Transpacific partnership. They also blamed President Obama for bugging his phones and the United Kingdom as well and described the current NAFTA's worst trade agreement ever devised and the new NAFTA, the best agreement ever made. So what do we make of all this?

The reality is, whatever goes on at the top is going to change in my opinion. We are going to have a new president. In two years, we are going to rejoin the Paris Calamint Court. It is a voluntary agreement anyway. States are already moving toward dealing with climate change.

I think you are going to see collections of states working together along with Canadian provinces. Most businesses in the energy field, I know I served on the board of an energy company for 17 years, are accepting the science of climate change.

They may argue about how much of it is manmade, how much isn't. They are already moving to renewables, even the big energy. Big oil companies are buying up or starting solar and wind and renewable energy projects all the time. So the momentum is going to continue no matter who is in the White House. It will accelerate once we have a different president. Yeah, I know I am a partisan Democrat, so you would expect me to say that, but the reality is it is going to happen.

The question is whether collectively, as John Godfrey said last night, collectively, we can have the kind of impact that we want to have. I can tell you the new Congress, the new House has created a select committee on the climate crisis. They don't even say climate change any more, and they are moving on the legislation that may or may not be adopted in the Senate or signed by the President, but the momentum is there.

Also, you know, it is interesting, almost all of the democratic candidates for president are talking about climate change. One of them is Jay Inslee, the Governor of Washington State, is making climate change the...

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