OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau acknowledged Thursday that he has more work to do to sell Canadians on further actions to fight climate change, pointing to new premiers elected on vows to fight his government's agenda.
Trudeau addressed the issue at the annual general meeting of the Canadian Teachers' Federation, where he took part in a one-on-one conversation in front of union representatives.
The prime minister said it's clear from public-opinion polls that most Canadians are concerned about the environment and want measures to protect it.
But that desire isn't always reflected in their votes, he said, when voters "turn around and elect climate-denying provincial premiers right across the country from the Rockies to the Bay of Fundy."
That's why "there is work to do in bringing Canadians to a place of understanding" that fighting climate change is part of creating a better future for children and a better economy, Trudeau said.
Starting last summer, Canadians elected new right-leaning governments in Ontario, New Brunswick, Quebec, Alberta and Prince Edward Island. The provincial Liberals in Newfoundland and Labrador retained power, but lost their majority government.
Those provincial governments, particularly Premier Doug Ford in Ontario and Premier Jason Kenney in Alberta, have challenged the federal carbon tax and scrapped significant provincial climate change measures.
"And the danger that will happen is if, after getting Conservative governments across the province, suddenly we have a Conservative government in Ottawa that completely flips around and starts taking us back on the progress we've made," Trudeau said.
"And I know very few Canadians want that."
In a statement, Conservative environment critic Ed Fast said climate change was a "real and pressing threat," but the government's plan was more about taxes than the environment, and would not help the country hit its emissions targets.
"All it does is make life harder and more unaffordable for Canadians by increasing the price of gasoline and home heating costs," Fast said.
The Conservative climate plan emphasizes the global aspect of climate change and would save more money for Canadians, he added.
Trudeau reiterated his government's commitment to combating climate change, citing the federal price on carbon, a coming ban on single-use plastics as early as 2021 and the Liberals' ocean protection plan.
He said there is "lots more to do" after this fall's election without providing specifics. Instead, he highlighted the importance of "bringing Canadians along" to build a consensus on further climate action.