Saskatchewan ag groups form united front against carbon tax

Twelve Saskatchewan organizations have written to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Environment Minister Catherine McKenna to oppose a federal carbon tax.

The organizations released the letter late last month, saying it indicates widespread opposition the tax faces across the province because of the negative effects they say it will have on the agricultural, business and construction economies.

The Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities organized the effort, and the signatories include:

  • Saskatchewan Farm Stewardship Association
  • Saskatchewan Heavy Construction Association
  • Saskatchewan Stock Growers Association
  • Sask Pork
  • Greater Saskatoon Chamber of Commerce
  • Western Canadian Wheat Growers Association
  • Western Equipment Dealers Association
  • Canadian Taxpayers Federation
  • Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan
  • Sask Milk
  • Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce

The letter said the organizations support efforts to address climate change challenges but the best available policy tools must be used to do that.

It noted the province has set out options for carbon reduction in its white paper on climate change, while Ottawa has offered no proof that a tax reduces emissions.

“As such, the organizations under-signed to this letter all agree that a national carbon tax will have a net cost rather than a net benefit to the Saskatchewan economy regardless of the measures the province of Saskatchewan puts in place to alleviate its impacts,” the organizations said.

“We believe that a carbon tax will increase costs for producers, firms and businesses resulting in carbon leakage, lost competitiveness and income.”

Agriculture minister Lyle Stewart, speaking at the recent Saskatchewan Beef Industry Conference, said the fight against the tax is big.

“No province in this country is as reliant on foreign trade as we are,” he said. “That’s what they don’t seem to get in Ottawa.”

He told cattle producers that the province would fight as long and hard as possible and is committed to standing firm against implementing a tax in Saskatchewan.

Swift Current rancher Brian Weedon commended the province for its stand against “carbon tax bullying.”

SARM director and SSGA vice-president Bill Huber from Lipton encouraged everyone to get the word out. He said organizations have passed resolutions and issued news releases but not everyone attends meetings or follows policy discussions.

“They really don’t realize how devastating this is going to be after 2018. I think it will put a lot of small farms outs of business,” Huber said.

“I know I farmed for 45 years and there’s a lot of years my net revenue isn’t anywhere near $50,000 and that’s what it could cost an average-sized farm by the year 2021 or 2022.”

Stewart said the government is looking to producers for help, and vice versa, in opposing the tax.

Both the SSGA and the Saskatchewan Cattlemen’s Association passed resolutions on carbon at their meetings during the conference.

The membership of both organizations agreed to lobby for research into and recognition of the carbon sequestration capability of grasslands and pay producers for storing that carbon.

The SSGA is also calling on Ottawa to reverse its decision to implement a tax until enough research has been done on how it will affect the competitiveness of the beef industry.

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