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Federal carbon tax sees provincial pushback from Alberta industry and government

Warren Frey
Federal carbon tax sees provincial pushback from Alberta industry and government

EDMONTON, ALTA. – An incoming federal carbon tax in Alberta is not being welcomed by the construction industry and the provincial government.

The federal department of finance announced on June 13 that effective Jan 1, 2020 it will apply the federal pollution pricing fuel charge in Alberta in response to the province’s new United Conservative Party (UCP) government repealing the carbon levy introduced by the previous NDP government.

“Canadians know that climate change is real. They see its effects all around them. One of the most practical and affordable tools to fight man-made climate change is a price on carbon pollution. Despite the efforts of those who would deny this evidence, we are working with Canadians to take action to ensure it is no longer free to pollute anywhere in Canada,” environment and climate change minister Catherine McKenna said.

By repealing its carbon levy, Alberta now only partially meets the federal benchmark requirements and will join the provinces of Ontario, New Brunswick, Manitoba and Saskatchewan in being covered by the federal fuel charge, a federal government release stated.

Edmonton Construction Association executive director John McNicoll said rejecting the carbon tax doesn’t mean the province lack concern for the environment.

“Alberta’s rejection of carbon tax is not a rejection of prioritizing the environment. Albertans want clean air, water, and good stewardship of our earth.  Albertan’s expressed their will by electing Jason Kenny aware that he was opposed to the carbon tax,” McNicoll said. 

“Federal Liberals hope Alberta will support their party but seem to misunderstand Alberta’s lack of trust in the current federal government’s ability to lead us in environmental solutions,” he added.

Direct proceeds from the federal fuel charge generated in Alberta will be returned to the province, the release said, with most households will receive more in Climate Action Incentive payments than they will pay due to increased costs because of pollution pricing. 

“Since most households in Alberta will receive more in Climate Action Incentive payments than they will ever see in increased costs resulting from pollution pricing, they will be better off financially. And because Albertans are joining all other Canadians in helping to reduce the carbon pollution that causes climate change, their children and grandchildren will be better off as we lead the world to a more sustainable and prosperous global economy,” federal finance minister Bill Morneau said.

The remainder of funds not going to Climate Action Incentive payments “will go to support other sectors, including small and medium-sized businesses, schools, hospitals, non-profits and Indigenous communities in the province,” the release stated.

Jason Kenney responded to the federal action while at a meeting on June 13 with New Brunswick premier Blaine Higgs.

“I just can’t buy any of these promises about the carbon tax,” he said in Fredericton where he was meeting with the New Brunswick premier.

“Minister McKenna’s own Environment Department has said that it should go up to $300 a tonne to meet Paris climate targets. If you really believe in a carbon tax as an instrument of climate policy, then you need a carbon tax of $200 to $300 minimum to have any meaningful effect on consumption,” Kenney said.

Alberta environment minister Jason Nixon also hinted a looming election may mean change is in store for the federal carbon tax policy.

“This opens up several opportunities over the coming months to have a conversation about the way that we intend to handle climate change,” he said. “With the federal election in between, many things can happen between now and Jan. 1,” Nixon said.

With files from The Canadian Press

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