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Manitoba defies feds, unveils its own carbon pricing plan

BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>Premier Brian Pallister released <em>A Made-in-Manitoba Climate and Green Plan</em> today at Oak Hammock Marsh. </p>

BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Premier Brian Pallister released A Made-in-Manitoba Climate and Green Plan today at Oak Hammock Marsh.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 27/10/2017 (1091 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

OAK HAMMOCK MARSH -- The Pallister government’s carbon pricing plan will cost Manitobans more money up front, but less over the long term compared to what Ottawa is requiring.

Manitoba intends to impose a levy of $25 a tonne -- or about a nickel a litre on the price of gasoline -- but that's as far as it is prepared to go. The federal government is insisting on a base tax of $50 within five years.

At a news conference Friday at a wildlife preserve north of Winnipeg, Premier Brian Pallister said his "made-in-Manitoba" plan will be more effective in reducing greenhouse gas emissions than Ottawa's, and will cost an average household less money.

"The environment and the economy aren't separate entities, they go together. And you cannot focus on one while ignoring the other," the premier said.

Asked about whether he was willing to go to court to defend his lower-tax position, the premier said he hopes his plan will win in the court of public opinion.

"We have a better plan than the plan that they're advocating," he said of the federal government. "I don't think they'll win in court. But I would prefer that in the court of public opinion that we make clear to Ottawa that our better plan is the one supported by Manitobans."

The federal government is requiring each every province implement a minimum $10-per-tonne price on carbon by the spring of 2018. The price has to rise by $10 per tonne per year until it hits $50 per tonne by 2022.

Speaking in Quebec Friday after receiving word of Manitoba's stance, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made it clear Ottawa expects the province to meet its carbon pricing guidelines.

"If any province doesn’t move forward in an appropriate way, the federal government will ensure that the equivalent price on carbon is applied to the specific jurisdiction," Trudeau said in Saint-Bruno-de-Montarville, just east of Montreal.

"We will respect what Canadians asked us to do and show the leadership on protecting the environment and growing the economy that all Canadians expect of us."

Most other provinces have already agreed to follow Ottawa’s proposal; Saskatchewan is the only one threatening not to impose a tax at all.

Federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna said Manitoba will be in good shape for the first few years of the carbon pricing plan.

"After that, they’ll need to up their game," she said in a statement on her Facebook page. "The details matter."

Over the next five years, the average Manitoba household will pay $240 less under the Manitoba plan than it would under the federal model, the province says.

But the cost within Manitoba households will be wildly divergent -- natural gas accounts for 60 per cent of home heating, and will be taxed, while electric heating will not be taxed. How many cars and how much a resident drives will affect their costs.

A couple with two children, heating a home with natural gas and driving two vehicles, is looking at $356 a year in carbon taxes. A retired couple, heating with electricity and driving one vehicle, will pay an additional $54.

Manitoba faces a greater challenge reducing emissions because so much of its energy comes from clean electricity, the government says, and because agriculture will be exempt from a carbon tax. Agriculture in Manitoba accounts for four times the emissions that it does on a percentage basis on the national level.

The province claims its flat-tax approach to carbon pricing will actually reduce greenhouse gas emissions more -- by 80,000 tonnes -- than the federal model over five years.

Missing from the government's announcement was how it will spend the estimated $250 million in annual revenues the new tax will bring.

Pallister said the government will be consulting with Manitobans on this issue in the coming months. He said an announcement will likely be made before next spring's budget and, possibly, before the end of the year.

NDP Leader Wab Kinew said he's concerned about the message the government is sending to Manitobans on carbon pricing at a time when hydro rates are anticipated to rise sharply in the coming years.

"It signals to people that once you adjust to the higher cost of fossil fuels, then you’re done with your transition," Kinew said.

Kinew said he's disappointed there was no plan for ensuring monies raised from the carbon tax would be used to mitigate climate change and lower the burden of increased costs on low-income families.

"A carbon price has to be tied to investments that help average families green their lifestyles, make choices that are better for the environment," he said.

In a 56-page policy document released Friday, the government said Manitoba faces a greater challenge reducing emissions because so much of its energy comes from clean electricity. In 2022, a formal national review of the country’s climate policies and carbon pricing by governments will occur.

"We will resist as detrimental and unnecessary efforts by the federal government to impose a higher carbon price and additional carbon prices on Manitobans before this review," the policy document says.

Under the Manitoba plan, large industrial emitters will pay a tax that's based on how much their emissions exceed established performance standards. If their emissions fall below these standards, they will earn credits that they could trade with other large emitters.

Sustainable Development Minister Rochelle Squires said the "integration of the economy and the environment" will be the government's focus.

Squires said the province's green strategy can help improve recycling and reduce the amount of organic waste that goes into landfills. "The more we recycle, the more we reduce our emissions," she said.

-- with files from The Canadian Press

larry.kusch@freepress.mb.ca

nick.martin@freepress.mb.ca

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Larry Kusch

Larry Kusch
Legislature Reporter

Larry Kusch didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life until he attended a high school newspaper editor’s workshop in Regina in the summer of 1969 and listened to a university student speak glowingly about the journalism program at Carleton University in Ottawa.

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Updated on Friday, October 27, 2017 at 11:02 AM CDT: Picture changed

6:32 PM: Update

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