OTTAWA — Premier Brian Pallister is rebutting the federal Liberals’ plans to have the province remit carbon-tax dollars for school retrofits, calling it a "hoax."
Environment Canada will now step in to remit $5 million of Manitobans’ carbon-levy revenue to the province’s school boards for items such as solar panels or insulation upgrades.
"We won’t be part of a hoax. This is a public relations exercise," the premier told reporters Thursday, a day before Ottawa’s deadline on whether the province would handle the funding. "Manitobans are intelligent people; they’ll see right through that."
Federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna said she was disappointed by the reaction.
"It’s very unfortunate for the people of Manitoba, who I know care about taking action on climate change, they care about saving money and life being affordable," she told the Free Press.
"You see students on the street; students want action. This is an opportunity to help schools save money and reduce their emissions, and (it) empowers schools and students to be part of the solution on climate change."
Last month, McKenna announced Ottawa planned to remit $5 million to Manitoba schools, with or without the province’s help.
Instead of giving the money directly to school boards, the Liberals asked all four provinces (Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Ontario, New Brunswick) that have reluctantly had the carbon tax imposed in their jurisdictions to allocate those dollars. The provinces had until today to accept the arrangement or have Ottawa go over their heads.
Pallister had described it as goading the provinces and playing for political points instead of focusing on climate action.
However, McKenna said Thursday her intent was to give the provinces a role in distributing the money, which did not require any cost-matching.
"We’re trying to co-operate with provinces to tackle the biggest challenge we face," she said. "We need to be acting together, and this is a summer where Manitoba has seen deadly heat waves, and Winnipeg’s on track for the driest summer ever."
(On Monday, the province said two people had died over the weekend from causes related to a heat wave in the southern part of Manitoba. The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner was investigating the cases.)
The Liberals have committed in law to remit all revenue to the province in which it was collected. They are channeling 90 per cent of the funding into income-tax rebates, with the rest being remitted in green projects.
Pallister said Ottawa was "showboating" by imposing itself in the province’s jurisdiction and ignoring his government’s investments in green schools. "We really don’t think this is how a country should be run," he said.
McKenna countered Pallister was "joining forces" with other conservative leaders "to do less and less on climate change" while slowing a growth in green-industry jobs.