Change tactics in clash over carbon tax

The federal election results demonstrate that the majority of Canadians support the carbon tax.

Two-thirds of voters chose a Liberal, Bloc Québécois, NDP or Green candidate, and each of these parties’ platforms included a carbon tax.

An overwhelming majority of voters in Alberta, Saskatchewan and all rural ridings in Manitoba disapprove of the Liberals and their carbon pricing plan, which isn’t surprising because the tax disproportionately hurts the resource and agricultural-based economies on the Prairies.

The anger and alienation felt by many people in these provinces, for which the carbon tax is partially to blame, needs to be addressed.

The Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act gives provinces the flexibility to lessen the blow that the carbon tax has on specific industries and demographic groups through targeted relief mechanisms, including rebates.

The prairie provinces are not using the powers the act offers them because they’re holding out for a better deal, and this tactic may yet bear fruit.

However, in the meantime the federal backstop applies and farmers are stuck with increased operational costs because of the carbon tax, including a big bump to their grain drying bill.

This couldn’t come at a worse time, considering the brutal harvest and lacklustre commodity prices. 

Agricultural activities are largely exempt from the carbon tax, but more work needs to be done to ensure farms can remain competitive in a world awash in large crop carryovers.

To this end, it’s time producers change their tactics in opposing the carbon tax because it’s unlikely to be revoked any time soon.  

Instead of just insisting that the carbon tax debate be framed around whether it should exist, farmers may be able to negotiate with the federal government to make it tolerable. 

The Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities plans to meet with the federal government to ask for relief from the carbon tax for grain drying, even though the organization continues to oppose the tax.

If the provinces refuse to provide carbon tax relief for farmers, then municipality associations, mayors and producer groups should step into the carbon tax fray to help the federal government establish carbon rules that farmers can live with. 

These groups may find that a diminished Liberal government is willing to make deals, especially if it can lessen the anger and alienation stewing in the prairie provinces.

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