Report that feds will copy Alta. carbon plan unconfirmed

Only Alberta, British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec have carbon tax plans in place despite Ottawa’s Jan. 1 deadline

Ottawa was expected to release this week its draft plan for a carbon tax or cap-and-trade system in provinces that don’t implement their own plans by Jan. 1.

Media reported last week that the plan will look like Alberta’s, which applies a tax on heating and transportation fuel but not gas and diesel used on farms. Rebates are sent directly to individuals who qualify.

Saskatchewan Environment Minister Scott Moe said last week he had no official confirmation that the Alberta plan is the model for Ottawa’s proposal, and he looked forward to the release of the technical paper from his federal counterpart’s office.

The federal government will require all provinces to charge at least $10 per tonne on carbon next year, which will rise to $50 per tonne by 2022. It will also impose a plan in provinces that don’t develop their own.

Saskatchewan has refused to consider a broad-based carbon tax, saying it prefers to focus on ways to reduce emissions through practices such as carbon capture.

“Our intent is to not have that cost on Saskatchewan industries such as agriculture, mining, our energy industry, and ultimately the people of Saskatchewan,” Moe said.

The Saskatchewan government is prepared to take Ottawa to court over the issue.

Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister has said his province will develop a carbon pricing system that will exempt farmers. 

Moe said there are two conversations underway: one about the tax and one about reduction, and the second is more important.

He said the province is still part of the conversation about how to practically reduce emissions to meet targets. He points to industries that are conserving water and emitting less greenhouse gas as examples of real action.

“We want to do everything we can to support that type of an environmentally sustainable business here as opposed to forcing them to move somewhere else due to a carbon tax,” he said.

In agriculture, work is underway to clarify how much carbon is stored by grasslands and practices such as zero-till, he said.

Moe said the federal timelines are clear, and the province is aware of them.

Only Alberta, British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec have carbon plans in place.

The federal plan is part of Canada’s commitment to cut greenhouse gas emissions to 30 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. That requires an annual reduction of about 200 million tonnes.

Although Ottawa has said the tax money would remain in the provinces, it is receiving GST on carbon taxes already being charged.

Alberta’s tax, which is $20 per tonne now and will be $30 as of Jan. 1, is expected to raise $5.4 billion over the next three years. 

Of that, $1.5 billion will be returned through rebates and the remainder will be used for projects such as renewable energy and green infrastructure.

Low- and middle-income Albertans receive full rebates of $200 per adult, $100 per spouse and $30 for each child younger than 18.

The rebates are automatic to residents who filed income tax and meet the income criteria: single residents earning $47,500 or less, and couples, single parents and families who earn $95,000 or less.

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