Federal ministers and representatives from the Canadian motor industry have met in what could be the first of many consultations ahead of the government's planned environmental legislation, Yahoo News Canada said.

The report said the government in Ottawa is studying the possibility of introducing vehicle emission regulations, and the last-minute meeting was called in the wake of landmark legislation in California.

"The discussion was very good, it was open and candid and we're committed with the government to move forward to accomplishing what they've mentioned as their objectives in terms of improving clean air and addressing climate change" Mark Nantais, president of the Canadian Vehicle Manufacturers' Association, was quoted as saying.

Environment minister Rona Ambrose, finance minister Jim Flaherty and industry minister Maxime Bernier attended the meeting and Flaherty reportedly said the motor industry wasn't being singled out for any changes the government planned to implement.

"This is an industry that's been a good corporate citizen in Canada, so that's why we want to work closely with them," he said, according to Yahoo News Canada.

The report noted that Ambrose has said the Harper government is interested in introducing a new Clean Air Act later this autumn in a bid to impose new standards and reduce pollutants.

Currently, the motor industry follows a voluntary agreement to reduce emissions, but that plan expires in 2010, the report said, adding that any vehicle emissions regulations would be the first imposed on automakers in Canada.

In 1981, the Canadian government passed legislation regulating emissions, but never proclaimed the law. Car companies agreed to follow the Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards set by the United States, and MPs did not push the issue, the report said.

The Liberal government explored the idea of imposing regulations two years ago, but eventually agreed to a voluntary memorandum of understanding that would see the total industry's emissions reduced by roughly 5% by 2012, Yahoo News Canada said.

Last week, California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a sweeping environmental bill that mandated a significant reduction in vehicle emissions, to pre-1990 levels, the report said.

Buzz Hargrove, president of the Canadian Auto Workers Union, reportedly told Canada's CBC News ahead of the meeting on Tuesday night that the federal government just wants to appear tough on environmental issues since they have given up on the Kyoto accord.

But he said their focus is all wrong, given the state of the domestic motor industry.

"We've got parts makers that are in bankruptcy and several others that are on the verge of bankruptcy. Layoffs all over the place, workers worried about their jobs," Hargrove reportedly said. "And we have a government moving ahead without any dialogue with the stakeholders in the industry about what we should be doing."

Hargrove reportedly suggested those who own older vehicles, which account for most of the pollution, should be offered incentives to buy newer, more fuel-efficient vehicles.

The report said Ontario premier Dalton McGuinty expressed his concerns on Tuesday, given the strong motor industry presence in the province which is home to several domestic and foreign brands' assembly plants.

"I certainly hope at some point in time the honourable Rona Ambrose will also call upon those who are responsible for the oil-and-gas sector in western Canada, and also bring those folks into her office so they may better understand as well how they are going to play a role in helping the country as a whole address our emission challenges," McGuinty was quoted as saying.

According to Yahoo News Canada, Sierra Club of Canada spokesman John Bennett told the Canadian Press that the federal government has an opportunity to push all of North America to new higher emissions standards if it adopts the standards set by California.

Ten other states, representing 30% of the car industry, reportedly have said they would like to follow California's lead, but are waiting until it wins a court challenge launched by the manufacturers.

Bennett was quoted as saying Canada could proceed on its own. "Under Canadian legislation, there's no way for the car companies to legally object to it."

"The car companies couldn't sue them to delay it or anything, and if they had to meet these standards in Canada they would probably just give up in the States, because it would be 40% of the market. We could be the catalyst," he added, according to Yahoo News Canada.