Feds stun provinces with carbon plan

None of the three prairie premiers say they can support a national carbon plan that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau surprised them with today.

Saskatchewan premier Brad Wall said he was stunned by the disrespect shown by Trudeau and the federal government after the prime minister announced a plan that would eventually be imposed on provinces if they didn’t join.

In Alberta, Rachel Notley said she supports the principle but the province wouldn’t support the plan until a pipeline to ocean water is built.

And in Manitoba, Brian Pallister said the province would not adopt a cap-and-trade system but he would consider a carbon tax as part of a plan it was already working on.

Ottawa and the provinces had agreed to collaborate on a climate change plan at a meeting in Vancouver earlier this year, and the country’s environment ministers were at a meeting in Toronto to discuss just that when Trudeau dropped his bombshell.

He said in the House of Commons the government would set a minimum $10 per tonne price on carbon beginning in 2018, rising to $50 per tonne by 2022. Provinces can choose between a carbon tax and cap-and-trade system and will retain all the revenue.

“If neither price nor cap-and-trade is in place (in a province) by 2018, the Government of Canada will implement a price in that jurisdiction,” Trudeau said.

Wall said Saskatchewan’s economy and families would be hard hit by the plan.

“The carbon tax will siphon over $2.5 billion from Saskatchewan’s economy when fully implemented and make our province a less competitive place to do business,” he said in a statement.

“We estimate the carbon tax will cost the average family $1,250 a year. Our farm families will be among the hardest hit. The carbon tax will impede Saskatchewan’s continuing efforts to export high quality food products to global customers.”

Wall said Saskatchewan will investigate ways to mitigate the impact of a large tax increase like this and added it wouldn’t likely reduce emissions because it doesn’t focus on finding solutions. He has often pointed to Saskatchewan’s clean coal project as a better option.

Alberta is implementing its own climate change plan in January with a $20 per tonne carbon tax that rises to $30 in 2018. Farmers will be exempt from the tax on fuel for agricultural purposes.

But Notley said she couldn’t support the federal plan.

“Alberta will not be supporting this proposal absent serious concurrent progress on energy infrastructure to ensure we have the economic means to fund these policies,” she said in a statement.

She said Alberta has for years contributed to national programs that helped other regions address economic challenges.

“What we are asking for now is that our land lock be broken, in one direction or another, so that we can get back on our feet,” she said.

In Winnipeg, Pallister told reporters his government had begun work on a carbon plan.

“We’re working very hard on a plan that I think will excite Manitobans, work, have us do our part and not damage our economy in the process,” he said.

Trudeau’s announcement came as debate in the House of Commons began on the Paris climate change agreement.

Conservative environment critic Ed Fast said Trudeau need not have taken a “sledgehammer” to the provinces.

Contact karen.briere@producer.com

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