Frustration is growing over a lack of information on Manitoba government’s carbon tax.
“We are a little bit sick and tired of starting to negotiate and discuss this issue in a vacuum without information from the province on what it is looking at,” Keystone Agricultural Producers’ (KAP) general manager James Battershill told KAP delegates at their advisory council meeting here last week.
Opposition to a Manitoba carbon tax is getting more organized too. The same day KAP was meeting here, the newly created ‘Manitobans Against Carbon Taxes Coalition’ held a news conference in Winnipeg calling on Premier Brian Pallister to hold a referendum on a carbon tax and join Saskatchewan in fighting a federal government-imposed tax on provinces that don’t implement their own.
The coalition also unveiled an ad campaign opposing a carbon tax.
“Grain growers in Manitoba are a good news story for the environment, including as a carbon sink,” Gunter Jochum, Manitoba director of the Western Canadian Wheat Growers Association (WCWGA) and grain farmer near St. François Xavier, said in the coalition’s news release. “A carbon tax, whether direct or indirect, would drive up costs for farmers and hurt the entire agriculture sector, from the field right to the kitchen table.”
- Read more: Manitoba’s carbon tax better for farmers than Ottawa’s: Pallister
- Read more: Keystone Agricultural Producers adds detail to its carbon tax policy
The other coalition members are the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, Canadian Taxpayers Federation and AxeTheCarbonTax.ca.
Where are the details?
While Pallister has repeated that Manitoba will put a price on carbon emissions, he has said Ottawa’s stipulation that it be at least $10 a tonne starting next year and rising to $50 by 2022 is too expensive and fails to recognize the billions of dollars Manitobans have spent and will continue to spend developing clean hydro electricity. However, Pallister hasn’t provided any plan details.
“This is part of the reason we are frustrated,” Battershill told KAP delegates. “The analysis and work we’ve done has really been in the context of what we know about other provincial systems and what we know about the federal backstops that were announced. If the premier isn’t planning on pursuing those options then we need to know what he is planning on pursuing so that we can give it the appropriate analysis and we can give him feedback and our perspective on that.”
KAP has also been working with the Manitoba Chamber of Commerce, Manitoba Trucking Association and Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters, which all have concerns about a carbon tax, Battershill said.
KAP is pleased Pallister has publicly recognized taxing carbon emissions could hurt Manitoba farmers who compete internationally and can’t pass the tax on, he added.
KAP met with Agriculture Minister Ralph Eichler on July 7 to try and learn more about the government’s plans.
KAP started working on its carbon-pricing policy last year by investigating pricing in other jurisdictions. It shared its information in a phone-in ‘town hall.’
In November KAP delegates passed a resolution calling on farmers to be exempted from paying a price on any carbon emitted directly from agricultural production. Direct emissions include those from burning fossil fuels and applying fertilizer to produce food or fibre, as well as methane from livestock.
In April delegates passed a resolution calling on KAP to review all other options, including a GST-style approach in which the tax would be a refundable line item on invoices for farm products.
Pallister doesn’t like that approach. In an interview in May he said rebates are bureaucratic and inefficient.
He also said he expects to release a discussion paper this fall on a ‘made-in-Manitoba’ carbon price. Battershill said he hopes the government doesn’t expect to consult with farmers during harvest when farmers are busy.
Last month Pallister said Manitoba is seeking a legal opinion on whether Ottawa can impose a carbon tax on the provinces. But he said that doesn’t mean Manitoba will not take action to encourage cuts in carbon emissions.