The election of a Progressive Conservative government in Prince Edward Island doesn’t mean the federal government will face another vocal opponent hell-bent on stopping its carbon-pricing plan.
“I don’t see us joining a fight right now to fight the carbon tax,” premier-designate Dennis King said Wednesday on CTV’s Power Play.
Provincial opposition to the federal carbon scheme has grown substantially as new conservative premiers have come to power over the past year-plus.
Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe made challenging the carbon tax a key priority when he succeeded Brad Wall at the helm of the Saskatchewan Party last February. At the time, Saskatchewan was the only province publicly opposed to the plan.
Ontario joined the fight a few months later following the election of a Progressive Conservative government under Premier Doug Ford. Ford’s government launched a court challenge of the federal plan, arguing that it was unconstitutional for the federal government to impose carbon charges. The hearing for the challenge wrapped up last week, although a decision could be several months away.
Saskatchewan has launched its own legal challenge along similar lines. So have New Brunswick – where Progressive Conservative Premier Blaine Higgs took office last November – and Manitoba, under long-serving Progressive Conservative Premier Brian Pallister.
Alberta’s premier-designate, Jason Kenney of the United Conservative Party, also has his eyes on a court fight. He plans to nix the province’s existing carbon pricing plan, at which point the federal plan will take effect in Alberta.
King’s election may have given Canada a sixth province under conservative rule – or at least one that considers itself a “very little bit slightly right of centre,” as King put it Wednesday – but it doesn’t appear poised to give the country a sixth province eager to scrap carbon pricing under the current rules.
“I believe Islanders want us to participate in a carbon-reduction plan,” King said.
“Prince Edward Islanders recognize – as an island province, more so than most – that we have to be mindful of the changing climate and the impacts it will have on this province.”
But that doesn’t mean King is entirely happy with the rules as they are.
The province’s previous Liberal government designed a two-year plan which largely resembles the federal scheme, but exempts home heating fuels from pricing.
The P.E.I. PC platform does not specifically address carbon pricing. Its environmental policies come closest by saying a PC government will “make a commitment to achieve a carbon-neutral society … includ[ing] targets for consuming a fixed percentage of our energy from renewable sources.”
Without offering specifics, King said that he hoped the federal government would be open to talking to P.E.I. about modifying the plan created by the previous government.
“We don’t have any other option but to drive vehicles here. We don’t have island-wide transit. We don’t have train systems. Everything that leaves the farm gate that gets to your plate is actually by vehicle,” he said.
“What we would like to do is to have a conversation with the federal government to say ‘We accept the plan to reduce carbon. Can we actually tailor a program in Prince Edward Island that actually helps us reduce carbon?’”