Nova Scotia’s carbon pricing plan remains in limbo

·4 min read

GUYSBOROUGH – After several weeks of press conferences, discussions and submissions to the federal government, the Province of Nova Scotia has yet to solidify their federally mandated carbon pricing plan.

Federal Minister of the Environment Steven Guilbeault sent a letter to Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston dated Aug. 29 rejecting the Better than Carbon Tax plan that the provincial government published on Aug. 18, 2022.

Although Guilbeault wrote that he appreciates, “Nova Scotia’s commitment to climate action… Putting a price on carbon pollution is widely recognized as the most efficient means to drive innovation and energy efficiency in order to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.”

When Houston announced the Better than a Carbon Tax plan, he cited the increased financial burden on Nova Scotians as one of the reasons his government was proposing a way forward that would not impose a new tax.

Guilbeault wrote in his letter to the premier, “You have raised affordability as a primary concern, and I could not agree more. Governments need to be helping families with the everyday costs of goods and services. Of course, pricing pollution can be used as a tool to help make life more affordable for Canadians. Provinces can use the proceeds from their carbon pollution pricing systems to support a range of goals and priorities.

“I appreciated seeing the range of actions under way in Nova Scotia…However, this is not a reason to avoid having a price on pollution – a requirement in all jurisdictions under the Pan-Canadian Approach to Pricing Carbon Pollution,” wrote Guilbeault.

Following receipt of the letter from Guilbeault, Nova Scotia Environment Minister Tim Halman held an online press conference on Aug. 30, where he said that the province hoped the federal government would take another look at the provincial plan and noted his disappointment that the plan had not been accepted when submitted.

On Sept. 2, the federal government’s deadline for submissions for carbon pricing plans from the Atlantic provinces, Nova Scotia submitted another proposal in response to the federal requirement to price carbon.

A news release (Sept. 2) from the Nova Scotia Department of Environment and Climate Change stated, “The plan does not include a carbon tax on Nova Scotia consumers, maintaining the Province’s position that it is not needed to meet the new federal requirements. The Province’s recommended approach is an output-based pricing system, similar to what most other Canadian provinces have in place. Under the system, performance standards would be implemented for large industrial greenhouse gas emitters, driving down companies’ emissions. If approved by the federal government, the Nova Scotia Output-Based Pricing System would come into effect on January 1.”

The release concluded, “The next step is for the federal government to review Nova Scotia’s proposal and provide feedback which will then inform development of the full Nova Scotia plan. This process is expected to take several months. The Government of Canada has also agreed to meet with provinces and territories to discuss affordability concerns and solutions; no date has been set yet for that meeting. The Province will also engage Efficiency Nova Scotia and other partners to help ramp up work to make homes and buildings in the province more energy efficient.”

In a press conference with Halman on Sept. 2, The Journal asked what the provincial government would do to offset costs for individuals that they may incur under whatever carbon pollution pricing plan the federal government accepts or implements.

Halman said, “That issue is top of mind not only to Nova Scotia but to my ministerial colleagues in the other Atlantic provinces. We talked extensively about that and in Nova Scotia you still have 200,000 Nova Scotians still on home heating oil. We’re very concerned about that. We want there to be a just transition to assist those folks to get heat pumps and so forth. We’ve got the infrastructure to do that; it’s Efficiency Nova Scotia and we need Ottawa’s assistance for that. And in my conversations with Minister Guilbeault, and he’s indicated this publicly, that he will sit down with the four Atlantic provinces and discuss that.”

Halman added, “Folks want practical, realistic solutions. They want to be part of climate change solutions, but we’ve got to do it, so that it is manageable and that it’s affordable.”

Lois Ann Dort, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Guysborough Journal