Local leaders calling for a provincial carbon price plan

The Pan-Canadian Framework aims to reduce the amount of carbon emissions produced across the country. In 2015, Canada’s total greenhouse gas emissions were 722 megatonnes. Photo by Lynn Giesbrecht.

Local business leaders and experts are calling for a provincial plan after Saskatchewan’s decision to refuse to sign the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change.

Each province and territory was given the opportunity to develop their own carbon pricing strategy and sign the Pan-Canadian Framework or face a federally imposed carbon tax in 2019. Saskatchewan will now have this carbon tax imposed.

Diane Adams is an environmental health expert and a 2018 Your Energy Future Fellow. Your Energy Future picked 16 young leaders from across Canada to travel the country and learn about Canada’s energy industry and the transition to clean energy.

“What the Pan-Canadian Framework said is that for provinces that do not come up with their own carbon pricing strategy,” she said, “the federal government would impose a federal carbon tax. So the federal government is going to go ahead and impose a carbon tax on Saskatchewan.”

Adams said this imposed tax will probably look like Alberta’s current tax format.

This federal solution is not the type of carbon tax Saskatchewan businesses want, said Adams. In 2016, the Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce asked businesses what they would like to see for a carbon tax.

She said that businesses wanted the government to continue opposing a carbon tax, but “they also said that if there was to be a carbon tax, they would prefer a cap and trade.”

“Now Saskatchewan’s going to get stuck with what the federal government has come up with, which is a made-in-Ottawa plan that maybe looks a little bit like Alberta, and they’re going to decide how the taxes are going to be redistributed in Saskatchewan, they’re going to make all those decisions on behalf of the province.”

President and CEO of FHQ Developments, Thomas Benjoe, says he understands why the province has been slow in developing its own plan. “They have a tough balancing act because we are a heavily carbon-based economy where we have a lot of coal used for our energy consumption in the province.”

“You have to put in or spend more capital in order to achieve the type of balance that they’re looking for in renewable energy. That takes time, and the province has committed to it despite slow processes.”

Despite this, Benjoe said it is still frustrating that the province chose not to sign the Pan-Canadian Framework. “I do understand that they are trying to create some of their own strategy or their own policy around it, of which we haven’t really been given details.”

“Without details, it just looks like we’re not participating,” he said. “So just a little frustrating, but I know we still have to be open to seeing exactly what the province’s position is going to be.”

“We’re missing out on seeing some of those dollars going toward innovation and technology that we can use inside some of our projects here,” said Benjoe.

Adams also wants the province to create its own carbon price plan. “What Saskatchewan really needs to be doing is thinking about how to use that money to help communities, help businesses reduce their emissions,” Adams said, “and to really protect our economy.”

She said a good solution for carbon strategy in Saskatchewan is one “developed with industry, that does price carbon, that does reduce greenhouse gas emissions and that shows that Saskatchewan businesses are well able to rise up to the challenge of becoming global environmental stewards.”

Benjoe agrees that the province needs its own plan instead of just refusing to sign the Pan-Canadian Framework. “If we actually had a plan in place we could have gone back to the table and said, ‘Look, this is what we’re planning to do, this is what we’ve understood. We’ve done our due diligence and we don’t have the capacity to commit to this in the time frames that are being established by the federal government.’”

“That would give us a much better position rather than just, ‘We don’t want to participate.’”

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