October 21, 2018

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Plans for federal carbon tax revenue still to come, Ottawa says

OTTAWA — The federal Liberals say they’re pushing ahead with implementing a carbon tax in Manitoba in January, but they still won’t reveal where the revenue is going.

“We’re going to keep on doing what we were elected to do,” federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna told reporters Thursday, “to tackle climate change and grow our economy.”

The Liberals passed a budget bill in the spring which mandates a $20-per-tonne levy to start in January. It says Ottawa must remit all revenue to the province it came from — but the law doesn’t say whether that means individual rebate cheques, transfers to provincial treasuries or some other measure. It also doesn't say when that cash is due.

“We will announce later this fall… how the federal system will work,” McKenna spokeswoman Caroline Thériault said in a statement.

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OTTAWA — The federal Liberals say they’re pushing ahead with implementing a carbon tax in Manitoba in January, but they still won’t reveal where the revenue is going.

"We’re going to keep on doing what we were elected to do," federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna told reporters Thursday, "to tackle climate change and grow our economy."

The Liberals passed a budget bill in the spring which mandates a $20-per-tonne levy to start in January. It says Ottawa must remit all revenue to the province it came from — but the law doesn’t say whether that means individual rebate cheques, transfers to provincial treasuries or some other measure. It also doesn't say when that cash is due.

"We will announce later this fall… how the federal system will work," McKenna spokeswoman Caroline Thériault said in a statement.

Manitoba Tory MP Candice Bergen told the Free Press she’s skeptical the Liberals will follow their own law, especially if they won’t say how.

"It's sort of ridiculous to think the government's going to tax people and then they'll give it all back," she said in an interview. "Justin Trudeau wants to fill (federal) government coffers; there's no other reason for it except that it's a tax grab."

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick</p><p>Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Catherine McKenna.</p>

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Catherine McKenna.

The Conservatives raised Manitoba’s pullout six times in question period, asking the Liberals to end the national policy.

Liberal insiders claimed Premier Brian Pallister never hinted that Manitoba would reverse its policy if Ottawa didn’t change course.

Pallister’s government had long asserted its flat $25-per-tonne tax would reduce more emissions than the federal one, which escalates from $20 to $50 over the coming four years. An independent legal opinion the province commissioned said Ottawa had a right to impose taxes on provinces, but would have to consider whether different policies achieved the same results.

McKenna said her department was still reviewing Pallister’s plan. "We’re really disappointed and quite frankly perplexed by the flip-flop of Manitoba," she said.

But even if that review had been done, Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc suggested Ottawa wouldn't let Manitoba keep its flat tax, even if it ended up cutting emissions faster than the federal plan. He told reporters Ottawa would collect a tax from any province that falls short of the escalating levy "and we’ll refund the money, obviously, to the citizens of those provinces."

LeBlanc also disputed Pallister’s argument that the Liberals were unfairly helping pipeline and liquefied natural gas projects in Alberta and British Columbia while ignoring that Manitoba has already spent "billions and billions of dollars" on cleaner hydro energy.

"They do not respect Manitoba's plan," Pallister said Wednesday.

"There's certainly no disrespect," LeBlanc responded Thursday. "We're happy to continue to work with the government of Manitoba and listen to the premier's suggestions — but we've also been clear that the time is running out to work collaboratively."

dylan.robertson@freepress.mb.ca

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