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Ottawa ignores Manitoba’s carbon tax wake-up call

October 22, 2018
Ottawa ignores Manitoba’s carbon tax wake-up call

Ottawa ignores Manitoba’s carbon tax wake-up call

 

Ottawa experienced a traumatic event when Manitoba rejected the carbon tax, but the feds are in denial. It’s as if Ottawa had a heart attack and then promptly fried up a pan of bacon. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau needs to pause and take the pulse of Canadians regarding the carbon tax.

 

Premier Brian Pallister gave a simple explanation for his decision to reject the carbon tax.

 

“The sitdown with the prime minister a couple of weeks ago was pretty much clear,” Pallister told the Free Press. “Either we’re standing up now to the federal threat or we’re standing up in a year. So which one’s better? I would say now.”

 

Pallister met the federal government more than half way. He proposed a carbon tax that’s higher than Ottawa initially required. He proposed to implement it earlier than required. He raised the point that Manitoba needs credit for its massive-to-the-point-of-reckless investments in hydro power.

 

Ottawa hasn’t responded to these specific points. Instead, the feds fixated on a single issue: Manitoba proposal to keep its carbon tax at $25 per tonne of carbon (or 5.3 cents per litre of gasoline) while Ottawa is telling provinces to increase the carbon tax to $50 per tonne over time. The federal government says it’ll impose that higher carbon tax on any province that doesn’t comply.

 

Rewind two years and the situation looked very different.

 

“We will end the cycle of federal parties – of all stripes – setting arbitrary targets without a real federal/provincial/territorial plan,” stated the Liberal campaign platform. “We will instead partner with provincial and territorial leaders.”

 

That’s what makes the meeting between the prime minister and premier pivotal. When the prime minister rejected Manitoba’s points, he repudiated the promised partnership. That forced the premier to take a stand.

 

What happened next is truly stunning. Manitoba’s decision to reject the carbon tax is a disaster for Ottawa. It could have been an opportunity for conciliation, but Ottawa took the opposite approach.

 

“Now [Manitoba is] with the federal Conservatives and conservative parties across the country,” said federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna.

 

So, Manitoba’s rejection of a carbon tax is just partisan, according to McKenna.

 

Pots and kettles debating partisan blackness may be standard procedure, but McKenna takes it to an astonishing level.

 

Yes, Saskatchewan’s right-of-centre Saskatchewan Party government has opposed the carbon tax from the beginning. Ontario’s Progressive Conservative Premier Doug Ford has now joined the fight. But they’re not the only ones.

 

New Brunswick’s Liberal Premier Brian Gallant is promising to “fight” Ottawa’s carbon tax. Alberta’s NDP Premier Rachel Notley has withdrawn her support for Ottawa’s plan and frozen that province’s carbon tax. Most striking is the almost unnoticed fact that Quebec’s cap-and-trade system is equivalent to $18 per tonne and there’s no sign it will rise, yet Ottawa shows no interest in threatening that province with a federal carbon tax.

 

McKenna’s partisanship is tone deaf, but her colleague’s comments are even more revealing.

 

The Free Press reported that Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc said Ottawa would impose a carbon tax on top of Manitoba’s proposed flat tax no matter how much emissions actually fall.

 

Let that sink in.

 

Ottawa will force provinces to impose increasing carbon taxes even if they’re already hitting emission-reduction goals. LeBlanc’s comment makes it clear this policy is not about the environment. It’s about taxes.

 

For those who need more proof, consider this: Prince Edward Island is already almost half way to achieving its targets and Nova Scotia has already hit them, yet Ottawa is still threatening to impose carbon taxes on those provinces.

 

Manitoba’s rejection of a carbon tax is a wake-up call for Ottawa. The most charitable assessment of the federal carbon tax is that it’s badly flawed and raising multitudes of unanswered questions. At very least, the prime minister needs to hit the pause button and check taxpayers’ blood pressure as opposition to the carbon tax rises.

 

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