Anti-carbon tax coalition formed in Manitoba

A coalition of like-minded groups wants Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister to act more like Brad Wall.

They are asking Pallister to take a position similar to the premier of Saskatchewan and vigorously fight the entire concept of a carbon tax.

“The majority of Manitoba’s small business owners oppose carbon taxes and cannot afford a policy that will increase their costs and make them less competitive with their U.S neighbours,” said Jonathan Alward, Canadian Federation of Independent Business director for Manitoba.

On July 13, the CFIB, the Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF), the Western Canadian Wheat Growers Association (WCWGA) and AxeTheCarbonTax.ca collectively formed the Manitobans Against Carbon Taxes Coalition.

The coalition, as the name suggests, wants to stop the implementation of a provincial or federal carbon tax in Manitoba.

In a news release unveiling the coalition, the groups announced a joint advertising campaign against carbon taxes.

One of the coalition members is Gunter Jochum, who farms near St. Francois Xavier.

“A carbon tax, whether direct or indirect, would drive up costs for farmers and hurt the entire agriculture sector, from the field right to the kitchen table,” said Jochum, Manitoba director for the WCWGA.

Pallister is expected to unveil a Made in Manitoba solution to climate change, possibly in late summer or early fall. Manitoba has to devise a plan before the end of 2017 because Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has promised to impose a base price of $10 per tonne for carbon on provinces that don’t have a carbon reduction scheme by 2018. The price could rise to $50 a tonne by 2020.

Carbon taxes are a thorny issue for agriculture groups in Manitoba because many farmers resent such a tax or think it’s ridiculous.

Some want agricultural leaders to take a militant position and outright oppose the tax, similar to the Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan (APAS).

The Keystone Agricultural Producers says farmers should be exempt from the tax and producers should be credited for practices that remove carbon from the atmosphere.

However, to some farmers that sounds too much like acceptance of a carbon tax.

“Divisive,” said Dan Mazier, KAP president, describing the tone of the carbon tax debate.

“It seems lately … to be for or against. There’s no room for discussion.”

Dwight Eisner, who farms near Bowsman, Man., would prefer if KAP rejected the carbon tax and lobbied against it.

He said Pallister and Wall should join forces and develop a similar position on carbon taxes.

“I personally would like to see him (Pallister) get together with Mr. Wall and talk about… ‘united we stand, divided we fall.’ ”

On top of fighting any “Made in Manitoba” plan, the Manitobans Against Carbon Taxes Coalition is asking for a provincial referendum on the matter.

While in opposition, Pallister railed against Manitoba’s NDP government for raising the provincial sales tax and not holding a referendum on the increase.

“Premier Pallister promised to hold a referendum on any major tax, and a carbon tax is obviously a major tax — imposing a carbon tax without a vote would be a huge broken promise,” said Todd MacKay, CTF prairie director

Mazier isn’t sure about a referendum, but waiting for the province to announce its policy has become tiresome.

“We don’t even know what (the government) is thinking right now and that’s very much part of our frustration,” he said.

“We’ll be able to react to the actual policy when it comes out.”

robert.arnason@producer.com

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