Drivers in Ontario and Alberta rang in the new year with higher gas prices, as provincial carbon pricing schemes came into effect.
In Calgary, the cost of gasoline rose on average three cents overnight, from 1.09/litre to about 1.12/litre, according to the website GasBuddy.com. In Toronto, prices also went up by about three cents, from around 1.10/litre to 1.13/litre.
The three-cents-per-litre increase means it now costs about $2 more to fill up a standard vehicle’s tank in those provinces.
Ontario’s cap-and-trade program and Alberta’s carbon tax, which both came into effect on Jan. 1, were expected to push up gas costs by 4.5 cents/litre in Alberta and 4.3 cents/litre in Ontario.
Prices for diesel fuel and natural gas are also expected to rise. For example, Ontario’s energy regulator says Union Gas bills will go up this month by between $4.65 and $13.54.
The carbon pricing is part of a national strategy to reduce climate-change causing carbon emissions by making polluters pay. All provinces except Manitoba and Saskatchewan signed on to the federal Liberals’ agreement last month.
Carbon pricing is nothing new: British Columbia has had a tax since 2008 and Quebec has participated in a cap-and-trade program since 2013.
The federal Liberals have said that all Canadian provinces and territories must put a price on carbon in order to slow climate change, while the opposition Conservatives have argued it won’t put a dent in global emissions but will manage to hurt businesses and consumers.
Alberta’s carbon tax of $20 per tonne, rising to $30 per tonne in 2018, is expected to cost families up to $443 per year, although rebates are available for middle and low-income earners.
Ontario households are expected to pay an additional $156 in 2017, according to the province’s auditor general. Ontario’s Liberal government says all of the money raised will be spent either reducing emissions or helping businesses and consumers adapt.
Alberta’s tax, put in place by Premier Rachel Notley’s NDP government, is particularly controversial considering the downturn in the province’s economy as a result of weak oil prices.
Alberta’s opposition Wildrose Party continued its campaign against the tax on Sunday, with Wildrose Leader Brian Jean issuing a statement saying that "the vast majority of Albertans do not support this carbon tax, no matter how much money the NDP waste on ads promoting it....”
Wildrose MLA Derek Fildebrant, meanwhile, tweeted on New Year’s Eve that he was filling up “every jerrycan” he could find.
Alberta’s Deputy Premier Sarah Hoffman told reporters Sunday that the tax is “the best way for us to protect for the environment and protect jobs and get pipelines built.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said last month that the Liberals likely wouldn’t have approved two major Alberta pipeline projects last month without Notley’s “leadership” in adding the tax.
Carbon pricing has also proven a hard sell Ontario, where the electricity portion of hydro bills for homes and small businesses has already risen 70 per cent in less than a decade.
The rising energy costs in Ontario have been forcing some to choose between food and electricity, a problem Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne called “my mistake.”
Ontario Progressive Conservative Leader Patrick Brown has said he supports a carbon tax, but he tweeted Sunday that “Wynne's cap and trade will achieve no meaningful emission reductions in Ontario but at an enormous cost.” Brown called cap-and-trade “a huge cash grab!”
With files from The Canadian Press