Saskatchewan Squabbles With Ottawa Over Pavilion Presentations at COP28 in Dubai

Saskatchewan Squabbles With Ottawa Over Pavilion Presentations at COP28 in Dubai
Energy Minister Jim Reiter speaks at a media event at the Saskatoon Autism Behavioural Analysis Treatment Centre in Saskatoon on Oct. 6, 2020. (The Canadian Press/Liam Richards)
The Canadian Press

Saskatchewan is squabbling again with Ottawa—this time over an event space at a climate conference in Dubai.

The province says because Ottawa rejected most of its proposals, it decided to pull out of participating in the federal Liberal government’s pavilion at the COP28 conference, set for later this month.

The province then decided to purchase its own pavilion for $765,000.

Jim Reiter, the provincial energy minister, said last week the federal government accepted a proposal from Saskatchewan to have a reception at Ottawa’s pavilion.

However, he said Ottawa offered the province 45 minutes for the reception. It also rejected the province’s nine other proposals, which he said included panels led by industry leaders.

Mr. Reiter said there are 40 Saskatchewan companies and organizations accompanying Premier Scott Moe and four other government staff on the trip.

He said Saskatchewan wants to showcase the companies’ sustainability efforts.

“We want to give them an opportunity to tell their story. That (45 minutes) obviously wouldn’t have been sufficient, so a different direction was chosen,” he said.

The companies and organizations are paying for their travel costs, he added.

Saskatchewan has long been at odds with the federal government over environmental policies, including the price on carbon, net-zero targets, emissions caps and assessments for energy projects.

Kaitlin Power, a spokesperson for federal Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault, said in an email last week Ottawa chose to allow one event per province and territory, as there is limited time and availability.

“The government of Saskatchewan had registered for a pavilion event and was on the list until likely mid-October, though we are confirming the exact date that they pulled out,” Ms. Power said.

Jay Teneycke, a spokesperson for Saskatchewan’s trade ministry, said in an email the province signed a contract for its own pavilion on Oct. 16.

“The government of Saskatchewan knows that the federal government will not share our story,” Mr. Teneycke said.

“As an export-driven economy, it is vital that we explore new markets and partnerships that could result in more jobs and opportunities for the residents of Saskatchewan.”

Ottawa’s pavilion includes presentations covering finance, trade, health, indigenous leadership, urbanization, energy, industry and Canada’s plan for the labour force to respond to climate change.

Presentations feature officials from the Alberta and B.C. governments, as well as others from federal agencies and non-government organizations.

The federal pavilion program says Alberta Premier Danielle Smith is to take part in a fireside chat over Alberta’s plans to reduce emissions through technology.

Alberta Environment Minister Rebecca Schulz is to accompany Ms. Smith on the trip. Ms. Smith’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment about her pavilion appearance.

The federal government’s pavilion is going to be in what’s called the blue zone, a separate area for accredited delegates. The zone also hosts formal negotiations.

Saskatchewan’s pavilion is to be in the green zone, an area for the general public featuring talks, interactive exhibits, art installations and film screenings.

Both zones are in the same building, but special passes are needed for the blue zone.

Mr. Reiter said he does not know if the province tried to purchase a pavilion in the blue zone.

Last week, Mr. Moe told reporters Saskatchewan’s pavilion is to feature a small area for seating, a meeting space and stage.

“Rather than having one or two presenting opportunities for the premier or some politician, (we'd) have a larger venue where we could actually provide that type of presenting opportunity for the industries,” he said.

Mr. Moe said he’s also made a request to participate in the federal government’s pavilion.

“We see what Saskatchewan is doing is certainly not in contrast or in any way detracting from what Canada is doing at COP28,” he said.

The cost of the province’s pavilion, which doesn’t include travel, appears to be the Saskatchewan Party government’s largest trip expense ever.

Saskatchewan’s Opposition NDP has criticized the expenditure, questioning whether the province needs a pavilion when other jurisdictions, like Alberta, have not purchased one.

Ottawa has not finalized costs for its trip.