Fifteen months after he abruptly abandoned plans to impose a carbon tax, Brian Pallister is poised to reopen talks with Ottawa on the contentious issue.
The premier announced his government's intention to revisit the matter with the federal government following a half-hour meeting on Monday with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at a downtown Winnipeg hotel.
"I would think it's fair to say that there's going to be a dialogue between the province and the federal government in respect of our made-in-Manitoba green plan," Pallister said. "That dialogue will include a carbon price of some kind, and we'll have that discussion in the not-too-distant future."
Manitoba had once proposed levying a $25-a-tonne carbon tax, but it dropped the idea more than a year ago after it failed to receive federal assurances that it wouldn't be forced to increase the levy in the future.
The federal carbon tax, currently set at $20 per tonne, is to increase to $30 per tonne this year and rise to $50 a tonne by 2022.
If Ottawa were to approve a new Manitoba plan to combat climate change, the province could gain control over how carbon tax revenues are spent. Currently, the feds rebate most of what they collect from the levy to Canadians when they file their income tax.
Manitoba is one of four provinces to have a national carbon tax imposed upon them because it has refused to create one that meets federal standards.
Pallister wouldn't say whether Manitoba was prepared to budge much from its previously announced green plan. He said he still prefers that any carbon tax be flat and not escalate.
"The dialogue will move forward and we'll see where it goes from there," he said. "We're going to advance our plan again and see where the dialogue goes."
Pallister said he wants Ottawa to acknowledge past and current green initiatives in Manitoba, including the province's substantial investments in hydroelectric power and its elimination of coal-fired electricity-producing plants.
"We've invested more than any other province... in hydro (on a per capita basis)," he told reporters.
Earlier on Monday, federal Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson appeared unenthusiastic about crediting Manitoba for past measures.
"We have to be forward-looking with climate change," he said following an announcement in Winnipeg. "At the end of the day, the challenge that we are facing is one of the emissions that exist today. We need to ... have plans as to how we're going to reduce the emissions that exist today."
The premier met with Trudeau on the second day of a three-day federal cabinet retreat in the Manitoba capital. The PM also met for about 30 minutes with Mayor Brian Bowman.
Bowman said the two discussed Winnipeg's methamphetamine problem, public safety issues and the $1.8 billion in required upgrades to the North End sewage treatment plant.
The mayor said he would push for greater collaboration among all levels of government in combating illicit drugs and crime.
"The more that we can co-ordinate all of our investments and actions — when it relates to public safety as well as dealing with the root causes of crime — (the more) we're going to get better results," he said.
Pallister said the province has already taken steps to address climate change that go beyond what it promised when it announced its green plan in October 2017.
He said he would make an announcement Tuesday in Brandon that will build on the province's green record.
NDP Leader Wab Kinew accused Pallister of flip flopping on the carbon tax "more times than a pickerel on a dock."
"He was for it, he was against it; now it's back on again. Who knows what we'll hear tomorrow on the subject?" he said.
Kinew said if the province were to gain control of the tax from the federal government, it should assure Manitobans that revenues would be spent on green initiatives and to help them "adapt to the affordability challenge."
During last summer's election campaign, the Manitoba NDP proposed using revenues from a carbon tax to lower Manitobans' hydro bills.
— with files from Canadian Press
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.
Updated on Monday, January 20, 2020 at 6:15 PM CST: Writethru.