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Tories pondering carbon-pricing options

Clock ticking as Ottawa vows to impose guidelines on provinces slow to create policy

Bruce Bumstead / Brandon Sun Files</p><p>A Brandon fertilizer plant would be subject to carbon-pricing regulations.</p></p>

Bruce Bumstead / Brandon Sun Files

A Brandon fertilizer plant would be subject to carbon-pricing regulations.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 20/9/2016 (1061 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The Pallister government is up against the clock when it comes to a price on carbon.

Ahead of November’s UN climate conference in Morocco and a planned meeting of Canada’s premiers, federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna told CTV’s Question Period Sunday the feds are ready to impose a price on carbon on any province that can’t come up with a plan of its own.

After 150 days in office, provincial Sustainable Development Minister Cathy Cox said her government is still at the drawing board when it comes to a “made in Manitoba” model for carbon pricing. She is not ready to say whether it’ll be a carbon tax like British Columbia’s or a cap-and-trade program similar to one in the works by Ontario.

“No, no we haven’t had those discussions yet,” Cox said.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 20/9/2016 (1061 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The Pallister government is up against the clock when it comes to a price on carbon.

Ahead of November’s UN climate conference in Morocco and a planned meeting of Canada’s premiers, federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna told CTV’s Question Period Sunday the feds are ready to impose a price on carbon on any province that can’t come up with a plan of its own.

After 150 days in office, provincial Sustainable Development Minister Cathy Cox said her government is still at the drawing board when it comes to a "made in Manitoba" model for carbon pricing. She is not ready to say whether it’ll be a carbon tax like British Columbia’s or a cap-and-trade program similar to one in the works by Ontario.

"No, no we haven’t had those discussions yet," Cox said.

She’s also not ready to commit to the former NDP government’s ambitious target to reduce its greenhouse-gas emissions by a third by 2030 or to become a carbon-neutral province by 2080. The Selinger government also committed to a cap-and-trade program that targets large emitters and would ask smaller emitters to enter a carbon-stewardship program.

"We want to do our part," Cox said, refusing to commit to any of those pledges.

Currently, only four provinces have a form of carbon pricing implemented or in the works: British Columbia (a carbon tax), Alberta (a carbon tax coming in 2017), Ontario (cap-and-trade coming in 2017) and Quebec, which adopted a cap-and-trade program in 2014.

"We will work together to find solutions that are good for Canada and good for Manitoba," Cox said, adding there is an Oct. 3 meeting with the provincial environment ministers in Montreal that will be a jumping off point for their plan.

The Pallister government recently hired David McLaughlin, the former chief of staff to former prime minister Brian Mulroney and a leading expert on carbon pricing, as its climate change adviser. McLaughlin is a key appointment in the lead-up to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s planned meeting this fall with the premiers to discuss a nation-wide climate plan, which will include carbon pricing.

Peter Denton, chair of policy for the Green Action Centre, said a "made in Manitoba" carbon pricing model has to factor in our two biggest industries for greenhouse gas emissions: transportation and agriculture.

"Every province has a different footprint, and I think the "made in Manitoba" version has to reflect what our contribution to the overall greenhouse gases and where they are," Denton said. "The fact the provincial government has not announced what they intend to do, I see that as a good sign because it means they are not just making an ideological pronouncement… they are being pragmatic."

Terry Shaw of the Manitoba Trucking Association said they have a "plan in hand" for how carbon pricing could work in Manitoba with the trucking industry.

Dubbed the "greener trucking fuel efficiency initiative," the plan would see anyone who purchases diesel pay a carbon tax. Those dollars would go into a fund people could access on a rebate level to purchase/invest in technologies that would improve fuel efficiency.

It would be an extra four cents a litre on diesel fuel, which would bring in about $4 million to the government of Manitoba, Shaw estimated.

"It is just a question of getting the new government up to speed on a plan," Shaw said. "Our preference is a carbon tax, just because it is more transparent. It is easier for us to understand and easier for us to communicate to those we serve and charge."

Farmers typically sell their product to an international market, which means unlike other industries they cannot build the carbon price into the product and remain competitive, said Keystone Agricultural Producers’ climate initiative co-ordinator, Sean Goertzen.

"If a carbon price is going to cover fuel use on farms and fertilizer — which it might, we don’t know that yet — the systems needs to take into account that farmers can’t pass on those costs to consumers the way other businesses can," Goertzen said.

Goertzen said he wants to see the revenue raised by a carbon price invested back into farms for initiatives such as carbon sequestering, which removes carbon from the air and stores it in soil to remove carbon dioxide.

Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall, the only other conservative premier in Canada, is vehemently opposed to any form of a carbon tax, arguing it will unfairly hurt Western provinces struggling with falling oil prices.

A request for comment from McKenna was not returned.

— with files from The Canadian Press

kristin.annable@freepress.mb.caTwitter: @kristinannable

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