The provincial government still won't say if it will stop defying the federal government and risk losing $66 million in financial aid to reduce carbon emissions.
Federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change Catherine McKenna warned Thursday that Manitoba and Saskatchewan — the lone holdouts to a national climate change policy — will lose out on more than $60 million each if they don't sign on by Dec. 31.
With Premier Brian Pallister unavailable Friday while making a bicycle journey of reconciliation to Peguis First Nation, Sustainable Development Minister Cathy Cox opted for a prepared statement that didn't address McKenna's ultimatum.
"Manitoba is committed to a made-in-Manitoba climate and green plan that reduces carbon emissions while growing our economy. Our province deserves a plan that recognizes the considerable investment Manitobans have already made in clean energy and the high taxes Manitoba families currently pay," she said.
"Manitobans deserve credit for the early action taken and massive public investment they have made in hydroelectricity. We expect the federal government to ensure that Manitobans receive an appropriate portion of any federal funding for climate action. Our province wants to do its part, but we’ve already been doing our share."
McKenna unveiled details Thursday of the federal government's promised $2-billion Low Carbon Economy Fund, to be spent in two streams over the next five years.
The first is a $600-million Low Carbon Economy Challenge for industry and public-sector projects to be launched this fall and doled out on a merit-based, project-by-project basis. Municipalities, provinces, territories, indigenous governments and organizations, businesses and not-for-profit organizations can all apply for funds, which will be prioritized for projects that provide the biggest emissions reductions for the lowest cost.
The second is a $1.4-billion Low Carbon Economy Leadership Fund per-capita fund for provinces and territories that have signed on to the Pan Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change.
Each eligible province will receive a base of $30 million plus a per-capita share of up to $1 billion.
Manitoba and Saskatchewan, the only two provinces that have not signed on, have been told they will only get their share of the funding if they sign up by the end of the year.
If not, their shares — about $66 million for Manitoba and $62 million for Saskatchewan — will be transferred to the challenge fund. Those provinces can apply for funding under the challenge fund regardless of whether they join the framework.
NDP environment critic Rob Altemeyer said Friday he can't believe Pallister won't get with the program.
"It's a pretty remarkable situation if the government plans to walk away from tens of millions of dollars," Altemeyer said in an interview.
"It's inevitable, right? Climate change is real whether the premier acknowledges it or not, and a carbon tax is real."
With the funds Ottawa is offering, Altemeyer said Manitoba could fund public transit, make Manitoba Hydro more efficient, expand curbside composting and provide incentives for electric vehicles and buses.
— with files from Canadian Press