Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister shares a smile with Sustainable Development Minister Rochelle Squires at the province’s A Made-in Manitoba Climate and Green Plan announcement at Oak Hammock Marsh Interpretive Centre Oct. 27. (Brook Jones/Interlake Publishing/Postmedia Network)
Fuel could soon cost you more.
The Manitoba government plans to charge a carbon price of $25 per tonne in each of the next five years, within a green plan it claims will cost taxpayers less and cut emissions more than Ottawa’s version.
The feds have promised to impose a minimum carbon charge of $10 per tonne in 2018, which rises $10 per year to reach $50 per tonne in 2022, on all provinces who don’t add an equivalent price by the end of 2018. Ottawa says its price would cost consumers about 11.63 cents more per litre of gasoline by 2022, while Manitoba expects its price would add five cents per litre.
“A level approach is better. It’s better because it will change behaviours earlier, in the sense of getting people to make the right decisions,” said Premier Brian Pallister.
The province expects its green plan will cut one million tonnes (one megatonne) of emissions by 2022 – 80,000 tonnes more than the federal version – and cost the average Manitoba household $240 less than the federal version in 2022.
The plan doesn’t explain exactly how a steady carbon tax would ensure Manitobans pollute less each year. The premier did say the initially higher provincial levy should offer a more immediate deterrent to fossil fuel consumption.
“Common sense would say if it’s lower it will affect behaviour less than if it’s higher,” said Pallister.
It’s unclear if the province will be able to complete its plan, however, since federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna deemed it insufficient.
“I’m looking forward to seeing the details of Manitoba’s plan. But I also want to be very clear: we’ve laid out the price schedule we need to see, which reaches $50/tonne by 2022 – well beyond the $25/tonne carbon price Manitoba is proposing,” McKenna wrote on Facebook Friday.
Pallister said he hopes Manitoba’s levy can avoid a court challenge.
“I don’t think (Ottawa will) win in court. But I would prefer that, in the court of public opinion, it be made clear to Ottawa that our better plan is the one supported by Manitobans,” he said.
The premier didn’t reveal how his government would spend the $260 million it expects its carbon tax to raise each year and instead invited Manitobans to help decide that at manitobaclimategreenplan.ca.
The province’s proposal suggests revenues could fund tax rebates to low-income families, projects that reduce emissions and/or infrastructure that protects against flooding.
The plan exempts the agriculture sector, which accounts for 32% of Manitoba emissions, from paying carbon tax on farm fuels. The transportation sector, which produces 39% of Manitoba’s emissions, isn’t exempt.
Select heavy emitters will face industry-specific emission limits, with carbon fees charged to those who exceed the target and credits for those who manage to emit less.
The province is also considering a landfill disposal ban for organic materials to lower waste emissions and a recycling levy hike to fund compost facilities.
A local business leader said the Manitoba carbon price is more appealing than the federal alternative.
“I think this plan respects the impacts on the economy as much as it’s trying to get meaningful reductions in emissions,” said Loren Remillard, president of the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce.
But others say its price is simply wrong.
Manitoba Green Party leader James Beddome said an initial $50 per tonne levy would be much more effective in triggering the behaviour change needed to reduce emissions.
Conversely, a taxpayers’ watchdog argues the province should fight any carbon tax and has now put Manitobans at risk of paying more than other provinces.
“They’re gambling that if Manitobans overpay now, maybe they’ll be off the hook later,” said Todd MacKay, prairie director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.”
Manitobans next year will be paying well over double the amount they would have to pay under a federal carbon tax with no guarantee they’ll be paying less down the road.”
Manitoba NDP leader Wab Kinew said he’s concerned that a flat carbon levy will be in place at the same time Manitoba Hydro electricity rates are expected to rise.
“That creates a situation where there’s less incentive for Manitoba families to transition to greener technologies.”