Environmental groups denounce anti-carbon tax PC fundraising campaign

Some environmentalists are not happy that Nova Scotia's Environment and Climate Change Minister Tim Halman led a party fundraising campaign critical of the carbon tax announced Tuesday by Ottawa. (Robert Short/CBC - image credit)
Some environmentalists are not happy that Nova Scotia's Environment and Climate Change Minister Tim Halman led a party fundraising campaign critical of the carbon tax announced Tuesday by Ottawa. (Robert Short/CBC - image credit)

Some environmentalists are unhappy that Nova Scotia Environment and Climate Change Minister Tim Halman led a fundraising campaign for his party that's critical of the carbon tax Ottawa says will be coming to the province next summer.

Up to 5,000 members and supporters of the Progressive Conservative Party of Nova Scotia received a mail-out earlier this month, before the federal announcement, in which the MLA for Dartmouth East called on them to join the Houston government's fight against "Justin Trudeau's punishing carbon tax on Nova Scotians."

In the mail-out, Halman urged members and supporters to sign a petition against a carbon tax for the province, claiming the levy would hurt low- and middle-income families the most.

Halman also asked supporters to help pay for the political fight.

"Your gift will help us push back against the spin and propaganda coming from Ottawa," Halman wrote. "Please help us keep fighting for Nova Scotians with a new donation of $25, $50, $100, $250, $500, or even $1,000 or more today."

'Spreading disinformation'

Sierra Club Canada has accused Halman of "spreading disinformation" in his four-page mail-out and the accompanying petition.

"It's the kind of thing you might expect from [former U.S. President Donald] Trump, but not from a Canadian government," said Tynette Deveaux, head of the organization's Beyond Coal campaign.

Deveaux pointed to Halman's suggestion that Nova Scotians can expect to pay about $2,000 more in 2025, rising to $3,100 by 2030, as a result of the tax on fuels like gasoline, diesel and heating fuel — without mentioning rebates the federal government is offering to help cushion the blow.

"Clearly the underlying intention here is to provocate," said Deveaux. "The federal tax, as it's designed, would offer considerable relief to low- and middle-income residents of Nova Scotia."

According to Tuesday's federal announcement, individual Nova Scotians will begin to receive quarterly cheques of $124 when the carbon tax takes effect in July. A family of four will get nearly $250 per cheque to offset the impact of the tax.

According to federal officials, 90 per cent of the tax collected will go back to Nova Scotians in those rebate cheques.

Those who will be hurt most, according to Deveaux, are wealthy Nova Scotians.

Submitted by Tynette Deveaux
Submitted by Tynette Deveaux

She said Halman should support, and not disparage, measures designed to lower greenhouse gas emissions.

"If government leaders, our elected leaders are allowed to make outrageous claims and nobody's calling them on it, and they're allowed to get away with it and fundraise based on those outrageous claims, we're in trouble — big trouble," she said.

The Halifax-based Ecology Action Centre was also critical of the partisan effort to use "the climate crisis" to rally support and raise money.

"I was quite surprised and rather disappointed that the provincial government is still showing opposition to the carbon tax," said Brenna Walsh, the group's energy co-ordinator. "A carbon tax is something that has been cited around the world as a really effective solution to bring down emissions.

Submitted by Brenna Walsh
Submitted by Brenna Walsh

"Canada's pricing scheme and the way it has been set up has been recognized around the world as being a really strong one," she said.

Working with Ottawa

Like Deveaux, Walsh said she also took issue with Halman's claim the tax will cost most people in the province more.

"For the large majority of Nova Scotians, those rebates will be larger than the taxes that they'll be paying as a result of that carbon tax," said Walsh.

Walsh urged the province to work with, rather than fight, the federal government to lower emissions.

"We don't really have the time to be having these political arguments," she said.

Minister stands by fundraising effort

Halman defended the PC fundraising campaign and stood behind his open letter to supporters.

"It's to the point," he said. "It's consistent with what we've been saying over the past number of months. I stand by the content of that letter."

He laughed at the suggestion the rhetoric he used was Trump-like.

"I don't think many people would say Tim Halman is Trump-like," he said.

Liberal Leader Zach Churchill said the current government has only itself to blame for the coming carbon tax.

"The PC government and Premier [Tim] Houston brought in legislation that is triggering a carbon tax coming to Nova Scotia and now they're using that as an opportunity to pick a fight with the federal government and to try to get money out of their members," Churchill said. "I think it's pretty hypocritical."