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Manitobans will see carbon price plan soon

But Premier Brian Pallister first wants to see the conclusions of a legal review on the constitutionality of Ottawa imposing a carbon tax on the provinces

The Manitoba government’s carbon pricing plan will soon be announced.

“In the next two to three weeks we should have the constitutional interpretation back and then very soon thereafter, by knowing where we’re at and what Ottawa can force us to do, we’ll be able to come out with our plan,” Premier Brian Pallister said in an interview on Sept. 28 after a ground breaking ceremony for the new Roquette pea processing plant. “I am excited about that.

“I think we have a far better plan. Far better for small and medium enterprises, far better for the environment.”

The federal government says it will impose a $50 a tonne carbon tax starting at $10 in 2018 and peaking by 2022 if provinces don’t do it themselves.

In August the Manitoba government asked Bryan Schwartz, a constitutional law expert at the University of Manitoba, for a legal opinion on the federal government’s authority to implement a carbon tax in Manitoba.

Thousands of Manitobans including environmental experts and the agricultural and business community have already been consulted on pricing carbon, Pallister said when asked if the public would be consulted after Manitoba’s plan is announced.

“What we expect to be doing is simply going to Manitobans (and saying) here’s ours, here’s theirs, which do you like?” he said.

Manitoba will start pricing carbon emissions in 2018, the provincial government said in its response to the Ottawa’s Proposed Federal Benchmark and Backstop for Carbon Pricing issued in May.

“But it will be a carbon price that is fair and fully aligned with the clean, renewable electricity we already produce and that reflects the economic realities of our provincial economy,” the Manitoba government response document says.

“The federal ‘backstop’ takes no account of this interplay between higher electricity rates due to clean energy investment and higher fossil fuel rates brought about by carbon pricing.

“Manitoba must and will take this into account with its ‘made-in-Manitoba’ plan.”

Manitoba’s plan is expected to recognize many farmers can’t pass on a carbon tax because commodity prices are set in the world market.

“We don’t believe that any carbon tax plan that the federal government advances should be applied to Manitoba farm families,” Pallister said in an interview May 11.

But when asked if it was inaccurate to say Manitoba’s plan would exempt agriculture Pallister replied: “Probably, because I am talking at the farm gate here.

“By saying that (we’re going to exempt agriculture) you’d be saying all related and secondary suppliers and so on…  (and I) don’t think we can realistically make that claim.

“But I do want you to get the general gist that we are very concerned where people cannot recover an input cost… in particular when they are in an industry as critical as agriculture is to the province of Manitoba.”

Manitoba’s response document says Ottawa’s plan might be applicable in other provinces, but would be less effective here and hurt Manitoba’s three biggest industries —agriculture, manufacturing and transportation.

Every $10 a tonne in carbon tax would yield about $100 million in annual revenue; $50 a tonne would generate about $500 million, costing the average Manitoba household $335 dollars a year, the document says.

The federal government says each province can decide how to use its carbon tax revenues. One option is to rebate some of it to lower income families, or those in rural, or northern areas where there are fewer alternatives to fossil-fuelled vehicles.

Another option is cutting income taxes to make carbon tax revenue neutral.

The Keystone Agricultural Producers want fuel used to produce crops or livestock exempted from a carbon tax.

The Manitobans Against Carbon Taxes Coalition, which includes farmer-members, opposes a carbon tax.

Pallister was quoted by the Winnipeg Free Press as saying the coalition is “misguided” because it infers nothing should be done to discourage carbon emissions.

Under the Paris agreement to mitigate climate change Canada agreed to cut its greenhouse gas emissions 30 per cent from 2005 levels by 2030.

Pallister, who says climate change is real, agrees with the targets.

“All governments must play a role in addressing it,” he said in an interview earlier this year. “What we do not support, however, is the federal government imposing a one-size-fits all solution with no flexibility and no accounting for the leadership Manitoba has already shown on this important file.”

About the author

Reporter

Allan Dawson is a reporter with the Manitoba Co-operator based near Miami, Man. Covering agriculture since 1980, Dawson has spent most of his career with the Co-operator except for several years with Farmers’ Independent Weekly and before that a Morden-Winkler area radio station.

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