Premier Brian Pallister is lashing back at accusations Manitoba has been slow to tap federal carbon-retrofit cash, suggesting "politics" is interfering in the process.

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Premier Brian Pallister is lashing back at accusations Manitoba has been slow to tap federal carbon-retrofit cash, suggesting "politics" is interfering in the process.

"Our plan as a province continues to be to partner with Ottawa to the full extend of the dollars they put on the table. We have projects right now in the mill that will exhaust completely Ottawa's available funding," he told reporters Tuesday.

Pallister was reacting to a Free Press story Monday about the province's lack of participation in the federal Low Carbon Economy Fund, which is meant to help provinces and companies reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

 

Three years into the program, Manitoba has accessed only nine per cent of the available funds.

Only Ontario, Saskatchewan and Quebec have lower participation rates, according to Environment and Climate Change Canada.

Pallister, citing a litany of provincial grievances against Ottawa dating to 2016 over aerospace jobs, the carbon tax and flood mitigation projects, denied his government has delayed the process.

"I would say there's a hint of politics involved in the reality of approvals under the Low Carbon Economy Fund," he said, noting Ottawa once threatened to shut Manitoba out of the program due to its stance on the carbon tax.

"To suggest that somehow Manitoba is threatened by this federal approach would be to put it mildly."

Pallister also noted three of the four provinces who have received the lowest percentage share of LCEF monies so far (Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Ontario) are challenging Ottawa's carbon tax plan in court.

Manitoba has intervenor status in a court challenge by several provinces against the federal carbon tax to be heard in the Supreme Court next month. Pallister said the province will file Friday its statement of facts with the High Court.

On Monday, the Alberta Court of Appeal gave opponents of the federal tax their first win, when it ruled the levy is unconstitutional. However, appeal courts in Saskatchewan and Ontario have sided with the federal legislation.

Manitoba launched its own court challenge of the carbon tax in April 2019, but paused the suit pending next month's hearings, which is based on different legal arguments.

Noting a Supreme Court ruling on the legality of a federally imposed tax on the provinces could be more than a year away, Pallister said his government continues to negotiate with Ottawa to gain control over revenues from the levy.

He said while Manitoba favours a flat carbon tax of $25 a tonne — something it initially proposed and then withdrew over Ottawa's insistence that the levy would originally have to go up — the two sides are continuing to negotiate a price point.

larry.kusch@freepress.mb.ca