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Carbon tax angers provinces, but Prime Minister stands strong

Canada’s provinces are at an odds with the federal government after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced a unilateral mandatory carbon tax that is set to be launched in 2018.

Anger has swept across the country as Trudeau takes decisive steps to enact a climate change plan that will meet Paris Conference targets to cut carbon emissions 30 per cent of levels from 2005. At the federal-provincial climate talks, the Prime Minister announced that Ottawa will impose a levy of a minimum of $10 per tonne of carbon emissions by 2018. That amount will go up $10 annually until 2022, where it will reach its maximum at $50 per tonne. Trudeau has also granted the provincial governments the opportunity to adopt their own cap and trade or carbon tax programs, as long as it meets the required targets. If the provinces don’t meet those standards, then the government will impose the minimum $10 carbon tax themselves.

But, not everyone is thrilled with the carbon tax. The provinces are irate, especially Saskatchewan and Alberta. Alberta Premier Rachel Notley reported she would only meet 2022 targets of $50 per tonne if the federal government allows the Kinder Morgan pipeline to be built. Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall has claimed the decision is a ‘betrayal’ on the part of the federal government to work openly with the provinces. Many westerners have claimed that Trudeau’s unilateral policy directly attacks Western Canada and is reminiscent of his late father, Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau’s National Energy Plan.

On the other hand, the plan is being widely criticized by environmentalists for not being strict enough. Many groups feel that $50 a tonne of carbon would not be able to meet the 2030 Paris Conference targets. I guess there is something to be said of finding the middle ground — if no one is happy, it’s probably a good policy.

Trudeau will convene a first minister’s meeting on Dec. 8 to define the details of the climate plan, which will include the carbon tax.

Climate change is a reality and invoking mandatory laws around it is a step in the right direction. The provinces need to be pushed to implement carbon tax incentives and it is necessary for the federal government to make that decision firmly. Hopefully the other changes that will be discussed in the first minister’s meeting will provide even more climate change incentives and Canada can become a leader in ‘green’ change on the international stage.

If only the provinces would jump on board — an environmentally focused and united country could become a reality.