The Pallister government might not expect to see environmental groups like the Green Action Centre working together with the Manitoba Trucking Association to advance a similar agenda, but it is not surprising.
We are concerned about creating a sustainable future and frustrated with the lack of government action toward that goal.
We have not seen the leadership we were promised, on Premier Brian Pallister’s vision to make Manitoba into "Canada’s cleanest, greenest, and most climate resilient province," a vision that lay behind the Made-in-Manitoba Climate and Green Plan.
Given the Green Projects, Business Competitiveness, and Clean Technologies initiative and the rhetoric that accompanied the various surveys and public (and private) consultations, we expected more, better and sooner from this government.
Specifically, we expected more from the long-promised carbon tax plan, especially in terms of how the money is going to be allocated. At the first province-sponsored consultation in October 2016, both our organizations — like others present — asked for the revenue to be spent on mitigating the impacts of the carbon tax on Manitoba’s most vulnerable citizens, and for the rest to be spent on programs to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions.
This would involve initiatives such as increasing and improving public transportation, enabling the use of electric vehicles by subsidizing their purchase and providing the necessary charging infrastructure, and subsidizing other efficiencies to encourage reduction in GHG emissions in the transportation sector.
We also impressed upon the members of government we have met over the past two years that this is an urgent problem, something that needs to be addressed in part by reducing the amount of "green tape" that gets between us and the solutions we could offer.
Truck drivers, like farmers and the rest of Manitobans, want to do their part to contribute to solutions, rather than just continuing to be seen as part of the problem.
Obviously, truck drivers provide a service that feeds, clothes and employs Manitobans, and delivers the goods and services that allow us to enjoy the standard of living we have.
We all want to find ways to make transportation more efficient, which is why the MTA jointly established the GrEEEn Trucking fuel efficiency initiative to provide incentives for truck drivers to do just this.
Failing to use the carbon tax revenues collected to support much-needed initiatives such as this one risks having the Manitoba headquarters of our trucking industry move to other provinces where such subsidies are already government policy.
After all, why should the Manitoba trucking industry pay a carbon tax, and at the same time (as good corporate citizens) spend more of their money to improve the efficiency of their operations for the benefit of all Manitobans, if this is not valued or appreciated by the government?
Some things are therefore clear to both our groups:
Without taking serious steps to do things differently, our greenhouse gas emissions will continue to rise, fuelling global warming. As Canadians, we have made commitments under the Paris accord to reduce emissions. Whether or not this will be enough to stop global warming remains to be seen, but doing nothing is not an option.
The carbon tax by itself will simply not be high enough to change consumer behaviour by punishing us into a greener lifestyle. Instead of $25 a tonne, we would need closer to $300 a tonne to do that.
The money raised, however — every nickel — should go to protecting the most vulnerable Manitobans first, and then to creating options for Manitobans to make lifestyle and work choices that reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
While we are pleased to see the one-time gift to the Winnipeg Foundation for a conservation trust fund, the revenues from such a fund are woefully inadequate for new climate-change initiatives, especially since existing programs (such as the subsidies to public transit) have already been cancelled as cost-saving measures by the provincial government.
Some parts of the solution are obvious. We have an abundance of electricity, which is more valuable to us kept at home than exported abroad. What we lack is the infrastructure to develop and support electric vehicles, as one part of a sustainable transportation strategy, something that carbon tax revenues could be used to promote.
We need the best answers all of us together can provide, because a sustainable future is important for all Manitobans — especially the next generation.
We are prepared to work as allies, and across sectors, to ensure the province advances its carbon reduction strategies by reducing emissions with funds from carbon taxes.
Terry Shaw is executive director of the Manitoba Trucking Association. Peter Denton chairs the policy committee of the Green Action Centre.