LEDUC, Alta. — Rural and urban municipal leaders want the federal government to compensate or rebate farmers for costs incurred from the carbon tax, hoping western Canadian economic concerns will be addressed in the upcoming budget.
Meeting in Leduc Feb 10. to discuss solutions, leaders representing the Federation of Canadian Municipalities’ Western Economic Solutions Taskforce said carbon tax costs associated with grain drying have been detrimental to farmers.
It’s been difficult for producers to adjust, they said, given past harvests have been extremely wet. It has been estimated that the carbon tax could cost a 5,000-acre farm an extra $8,000 to $10,000 this year, according to the Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan.
“The federal government needs to take a hard look at the carbon pricing system and see what help they can immediately provide,” Randy Goulden, chair of task force and a city councillor in Yorkton, Sask., told reporters.
“We need them to provide an environment for farmers where they can go about the work they do in food production and for our exports as a country,” she said.
Members of the task force discussed solutions to the economic challenges in Western Canada with Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland and Economic Development Minister Mélanie Joly.
Freeland said it’s key for the government to work and have important discussions with the task force.
Joly, who has been touring the country, said people are proud of where they come from. They want to earn a pay cheque and support their families in their hometowns, she said.
“At the end of the day, it’s our job to work together and make sure people feel confident in the future,” she said, speaking to members of the task force. “We don’t have all the solutions, but we are there to support all of the best ideas.”
The task force was struck in November 2019 to appeal directly to the federal government about economic concerns in the West.
Western Canada is facing difficult economic conditions, with a stagnant oil and gas sector.
The agriculture sector has also experienced issues. Trade barriers, rail backlogs and government regulations are heightening risks for farmers, the leaders said.
On top of that, new climate policy introduced by the Liberal government is causing anxiety.
Given western economies are more reliant on natural resource development, some wonder what impact the climate policy may have on industry. Many don’t want the West to be left out, and its economies must be included in the transition, leaders said.
“Our goal is to build an understanding between people who live in rural and urban areas. We want to identify common ground and bring forward recommendations to (the) federal government about how to tackle those issues,” said Charlie Clark, vice-chair of the task force and the mayor of Saskatoon.
“We have front-line expertise in our communities, and we are exploring a range of solutions that are short-term, medium-term and long-term to address these issues,” he said.
During her remarks to the municipal leaders, Joly said the government understands there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to economic development, suggesting openness is key.
“I want you to think of us (the government) as partners,” she said. “Let’s work together to find a solution.”
Along with compensating or rebating farmers for the carbon tax from grain drying, the task force has introduced other recommendations the government could implement in the upcoming budget.
They include speedy reclamation of abandoned oil and gas wells, as well as creating a new infrastructure fund for regions with oil and gas economies. They want the fund to be successful and implemented as soon as possible.
There have been concerns recently about oil and gas companies not paying their taxes to rural municipalities in Alberta.
The Rural Municipalities of Alberta association has pegged unpaid taxes at $173 million.
“It’s a significant issue for rural municipalities, as well as for producers and landowners,” said AnnLisa Jensen, vice-chair of the task force and a councillor with Parkland County in Alberta.
“Conversations are just the first step,” she said. “Communities, like mine, need solutions and can’t wait. We are focused and ready to work with federal government to get it done.”