August 6, 2020

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Premier touts 'green piece' for budget

Province continues to demand federal recognition for clean-energy investments

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mike Sudoma</p><p>Manitoba Premier, Brian Pallister's government intends to reopen talks with the federal government on the carbon tax.</p>

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mike Sudoma

Manitoba Premier, Brian Pallister's government intends to reopen talks with the federal government on the carbon tax.

Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister says his government will announce "very significant" changes to its green plan in the province’s forthcoming budget.

"I would say this is going to be the best budget in 25 years in Manitoba, and a particularly important aspect of it... is the green piece of that budget," Pallister said Thursday in an interview.

While a date has not yet been announced, the premier said the 2020-21 budget will be delivered in the "not-too-distant future. The legislature reconvenes March 4.

Pallister wouldn’t reveal details of any new green initiatives, saying: "I don’t want to preview too much."

He has kept his cards close to his chest since announcing last month — following a brief meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in Winnipeg — his government intended to reopen talks with the federal government on the carbon tax.

Sixteen months ago, Pallister abandoned plans to impose a Manitoba carbon tax, after he failed to receive federal assurances he wouldn’t be forced to raise it from his proposed level of $25 a tonne.

After the pull-out, Ottawa imposed its own tax on Manitoba, and the province lost the ability to control the revenues from the tax. Manitobans are currently paying $20/tonne, with the amount set to rise in stages to $50/tonne by 2022.

Manitoba has argued Ottawa has undervalued its investments in hydroelectric power and energy-savings measures.

Crown Services Minister Jeff Wharton posted a video on Twitter this week claiming Manitoba had spent $20 billion over 12 years on clean energy projects, "a remarkable $1,330 per Manitoban per year in a cleaner, greener future."

Wharton also touted the creation of a new Crown corporation, Efficiency Manitoba, which has set new energy efficiency targets that would reduce annual emissions by 340,000 tonnes by 2022.

"Our plan deserves the respect from Ottawa," he says in the video.

Federal officials said Thursday they’ve discussed the carbon tax with Manitoba bureaucrats over the past few months, but they said Ottawa has yet to receive an official plan, nor any new proposals from the province.

For months, the federal Liberals have said they need Manitoba to resubmit a plan for it to be assessed, including requests for leniency.

The premier has argued Ottawa has unfairly cut deals with other provinces — for example, allowing Prince Edward Island to slash an existing gas tax and replace it with the carbon tax — while ignoring the province’s billions of spending on hydroelectricity.

Manitoba launched a court challenge of the carbon tax on that basis in April 2019, but paused the suit pending next month’s Supreme Court hearings on the carbon tax, which is based on different legal arguments.

— with files from Dylan Robertson

larry.kusch@freepress.mb.ca

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.

Read full biography

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