'We can’t stop the carbon tax': Atlantic premiers submit climate plans to Ottawa

·3 min read

HALIFAX — The climate change plan Nova Scotia submitted on Friday to the federal government didn't include a carbon tax -- likely ensuring that Ottawa will impose one on the province in the new year.

Atlantic provinces had until Friday to submit their emissions-reduction plans to Ottawa and Nova Scotia was the only one that made its proposal public. It calls for performance standards for large greenhouse gas emitters to be administered by the provincial government, but it doesn’t include a tax.

“We can’t stop the carbon tax,” Environment Minister Tim Halman told reporters Friday. “So my staff … is ready to work with the federal Department of Finance and Environment and Climate Change Canada to have control of those revenues if they impose that carbon tax.”

It’s estimated those revenues would be in the vicinity of $1 billion or more by 2030, according to the province.

The four Atlantic premiers wrote to federal Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault on Thursday to request an extension of the deadline, but they were turned down. Ottawa has said it will impose a federal carbon tax on provinces that do not submit a carbon-pricing plan it deems acceptable and that adheres to Canada's greenhouse gas emission targets.

Nova Scotia is proposing a system known as output-based pricing, and it would be mandatory for facilities emitting 50,000 tonnes annually. The system would only apply to Nova Scotia Power and the Lafarge cement plant near Truro, N.S., officials said.

The federal government has promised to buffer the impact of a carbon tax by returning the money to Canadians in the form of rebates, but Halman said Nova Scotia will also push for control of those revenues in order to make the cost of living more affordable.

However, he wasn’t definitive when asked whether any help to offset the cost of higher gasoline and home heating prices would come in the form of a provincial rebate. “Affordability is top of mind and I can tell you that we will be assisting Nova Scotians,” Halman said. “In all likelihood there would be those rebates,” he added.

The price of carbon under the federal tax will increase by $15 per tonne in 2023, and then rise again every year until it reaches $170 per tonne in 2030. Nova Scotia officials have said the tax could add 14.4 cents per litre to the cost of gasoline in the province by April 2023.

Halman said talks will continue with the federal department around his province’s proposal and on the best ways to assist people with the costs.

Guilbeault has said he remains committed to working with Atlantic premiers over the next two weeks to address concerns over such things as home heating costs.

Meanwhile, Anne Moores, spokeswoman for New Brunswick’s Department of Environment, said Friday the province would submit its carbon pricing plan by the deadline as required. However, the province wouldn’t be discussing its proposal until the federal government has reviewed it, she said in an emailed statement.

“Although we are committed to taking action on climate change, we are deeply concerned about affordability impacts of carbon pricing on households,” Mooers said. “We look forward to discussing these concerns with the federal minister and identifying practical solutions.”

In a separate letter sent Thursday, Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Andrew Furey told Guilbeault that his province has prepared a carbon-pricing proposal for submission by the deadline.

Nova Scotia submitted a plan in mid-August based on existing environmental goals that were set out in legislation last fall, but that was rejected by the federal minister, who said it didn’t set a new price for carbon. The province has operated under a cap-and-trade program for large industrial emitters since 2019, but that is slated to expire at the end of this year.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 2, 2022.

Keith Doucette, The Canadian Press