Ottawa Pushes Ahead With Carbon Price Despite Opposition From Provinces

Canada’s federal government in Ottawa is pushing ahead with plans for a country-wide carbon price despite concerns that it could harm the economy.

Environment Minister Catherine McKenna and Finance Minister Bill Morneau released the government’s carbon tax framework and a draft of the “Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act” for public comment on Monday afternoon.

The legislation includes new charges on consumer fuels such as gasoline, diesel, propane and natural gas. It would also set an emissions limit for industrial facilities such as oil and gas projects, pulp and paper mills, chemicals facilities, cement plants, mines, fertilizer facilities and steel mills. Any facility that emits more than its limit will need to pay, and those that emit less could be eligible for carbon credits that could be sold to bigger polluters.

Ottawa is also considering ways to apply carbon taxes to the offshore oil and gas sector and to electricity generation. A news release said the government may eventually extend the tax to other sectors of the economy as well. The provinces of Alberta, British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec have all implemented carbon pricing systems that satisfy the federal government’s requirements, but Ottawa could impose the new set of rules on other provinces — such as Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia — that have not implemented a carbon pricing system on their own.

Minister Morneau described the carbon tax system as positive for middle-class jobs — something that has been hotly contested in Alberta, where carbon taxes rose this month, and in Saskatchewan, where the government has vowed not to implement any carbon tax no matter what steps Ottawa takes.

“To help Canadians succeed today and in the economy of tomorrow, we are making long-term investments to grow the economy in a way that ensures good jobs, healthy communities and clean air and water,” said the Finance Minister in the news release.

Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall said in a video released last week that his province would not adopt a price for carbon – ever.

“Our government’s made-in-Saskatchewan climate change plan does not include a carbon tax,” he said. “We’re going to stand up for this province, and that means no carbon tax.”

The federal government said it intends to implement the federal backstop in whole or in part on January 1, 2019 in any province and territory that does not have a carbon pricing system that meets the benchmark.

“In order to minimize uncertainty for residents, businesses and investors, once the backstop goes into effect in a jurisdiction, we intend to keep it in effect until at least 2022,” read the federal government news release.