Local MLA unhappy federal government moving ahead with carbon tax

The federal government will enact a carbon tax in Saskatchewan – despite the provincial government’s objections.

Donna Harpauer, the MLA for Humboldt-Watrous, said the federal government’s announcement made on Oct. 23 came as a surprise to the province.

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“We definitely think the carbon tax will have a huge negative impact on our economy as well as our families. It’s going to have a huge impact on every industry that’s in our area,” she said, listing manufacturing, potash and agriculture in particular.

Ralph Goodale, the federal public safety minister, said the federal government is filling in what it believes are gaps with the province’s Prairie Resilience environmental plan. The plan has a system that requires large industrial facilities like mines, pulp mills and refineries to reduce their emissions that the federal government accepts. Everything else not covered by that system will face the federal carbon tax.

“As so far as it goes we’re embracing the provincial plan and adding to it,” Goodale said. “Our approach is to pick up the best elements of various plans across the country and trying to make that work for the good of the country overall.”

Harpauer said it makes no sense that the federal government is imposing the carbon tax when it has a plan that would reduce emissions by up to 12 million tons by 2030.

“It is extremely wrong for the critics to say we don’t have a plan. We do have a plan, it just doesn’t include a job-killing carbon tax.”

Starting in April 2019 the federal government plans to add cost to fuel. In Saskatchewan it will be 4.42 cents per litre of gasoline and 3.91 cents per cubic metre of natural gas in home heating.

The federal government expects to give family-based rebates. In 2019, an adult living outside Saskatchewan’s two biggest cities will receive $336, their partner $138 and each child $84. That will increase over the next three years.

Goodale said the rebates will give families an incentive to make renovations so they can keep more of it in future years. Harpauer said it doesn’t give any incentives to change their behaviour.

“It’s a little disingenuous how they’re portraying it,” she said. “You know and I know there isn’t any more money than you collect and they’re portraying like they’re going to collect this money and somehow, magically, we’re going to pay back more than we collect. That just isn’t possible. The math just doesn’t add up.”

The local MLA added the carbon tax is a redistribution of wealth and that somebody has to pay. If it’s businesses, then they’ll pass on their costs back to the consumer.

“Then the government gets to buy our vote through a very blatant, very poorly-veiled vote-getting scheme,” she said.

Farm fuels are exempt from the carbon tax.

“Agriculture in Saskatchewan has a very large and particular significance and the argument was made at the very beginning that the charge in relation to farm fuels would be very difficult challenge for rural Saskatchewan,” Goodale said.

Harpauer said the carbon tax isn’t exempt from goods and services used by farmers, like fertilizer, commercial trucking and farm equipment, nor will it help heat the farmhouse, shop or shed.

“To say the farmers are going to be exempt is so far from the truth that it’s pretty frustrating the federal government’s trying to portray it this way.”

This announcement comes two weeks after a report from the world’s leading climate scientists. The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change where they stated there is only a dozen years for global warming to be kept to a maximum of 1.5°C, beyond which even half a degree will significantly worsen the risks of drought, floods, extreme heat and poverty for hundreds of millions of people.

“Will there be controversy? It’s hard to believe there won’t be, but we’re going to work very hard to take a constructive approach as we always have,” Goodale said.

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