Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Wednesday October 12, 2016
Liberal government’s carbon tax plan provokes anger from provinces
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau issued an ultimatum to the provinces on Monday, announcing his government’s plan to set a minimum carbon tax even as environment ministers were meeting in Montreal to discuss options for carbon pricing.
Several provinces and territories reacted angrily – three environment ministers walked out of the federal-provincial climate talks – after Mr. Trudeau’s unilateral announcement in the House of Commons. Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall said the decision is a “betrayal” of the co-operative approach the Prime Minister had promised and that the tax would devastate his province’s economy.
Mr. Trudeau essentially told premiers to adopt a carbon tax or cap-and-trade plan or Ottawa will impose its own levy – a minimum of $50 a tonne by 2022 – and return the revenue the provinces. It comes as the Liberal government is embroiled in a dispute with the provinces over health-care funding, and signals the Prime Minister’s determination to exert federal leadership in areas where the premiers largely had free rein for the past decade under the Conservatives.
Saskatchewan Environment Minister Scott Moe left the Montreal environment ministers’ meeting before it concluded, as did Nova Scotia’s Margaret Miller, and Perry Trimper, Minister of Environment and Conservation for Newfoundland and Labrador.
“Today is not a good day for federal-provincial relations,” Mr. Moe said.
“We’re struggling a little bit to understand where the Prime Minister’s message came from today, and what’s going to happen moving forward,” Ms. Miller said. Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil says his province is leading the country in reduction of greenhouse gases by cutting emissions in the electricity sector, but does not want to impose higher taxes on gasoline and diesel fuels.
Mr. Trudeau has long promised that Ottawa would impose a minimum carbon price on provinces unwilling to adopt their own system, but on Monday, he seized the leadership from premiers, who have insisted on the right to regulate carbon emissions as they see fit.
The Prime Minister said he will convene a first ministers’ meeting on Dec. 8 with the aim of concluding a pan-Canadian climate plan, which would include carbon pricing and other measures. (Source: Globe & Mail)