Premiers pile on, reject federal 'intransigence' over carbon tax plan
Published Thursday, October 4, 2018 6:01PM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, October 4, 2018 7:13PM EDT
OTTAWA – The number of premiers and potential premiers who are saying "no" to the "made-in-Ottawa" carbon tax are piling up at the federal government's door.
On Thursday, New Brunswick PC Leader Blaine Higgs -- who could become premier pending Liberal Premier Brian Gallant’s testing of the confidence of the legislature -- doubled down on his commitment to fight the federal plan to put a national price on pollution.
"I am absolutely not going to impose a carbon tax, and I’ve said that through the process that I would work with the other provinces to fight the federal government in this regard," Higgs told Don Martin, host of CTV's Power play.
Higgs -- who believes he’s poised to be premier with the backing of the province's Green MLAs -- said he’d join the other provinces in their fight against the federal plan, and if the legal fight is unsuccessful he will make sure that people of his province are rebated fully.
Higgs joins Ontario Premier Doug Ford, Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe, Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister, and Alberta UCP Leader and premier-hopeful Jason Kenney in their vocal opposition to the Trudeau government’s plan.
Alberta Premier Rachel Notley has also vowed not to support the carbon tax plan until the Trans Mountain pipeline goes ahead.
"What's ironic here is that we see that federally you know, they talk about carbon tax, and yet they buy a pipeline and they’re installing a new LNG plant," Higgs said. "So let's just be straight with the people of the province, and yes we’re working towards our emissions, and yes we need a balanced economic approach, but don't try to be all things to all people and at the end of the day, be very little to anyone."
On Thursday, Moe announced that he'd be filing intervener status in the Ontario court challenge of the federal tax, a day after Pallister broke the news that he, too, was no longer going to charge a $25-a-tonne levy come December, as previously planned.
On CTV's Power Play Moe said that it’s not surprising how much opposition has sprung up to this plan, arguing that it's too costly for Canadians.
"This has not been a collaborative conversation from the get-go, and I think you’re seeing the results of a flawed policy, a flawed process, and really a flawed attempt at implementation by the federal government, and it’s one they should back away from, they should back away from it quickly and reengage with the provinces," Moe said.
The federal plan or "backstop" is to impose a federal price on carbon -- up to $50 per excess tonne by 2022 -- in provinces who don’t implement their own system. In the cases where provinces don't put forward a plan that suits the government’s criteria, the federal Liberals plan to go around the provincial governments and refund people directly with the money collected through the tax.
Environment Minister Catherine McKenna has been leading the push to implement their carbon pricing plan, though, with the number of provincial rejections growing, Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc has been tapped in to back her up.
Both LeBlanc and McKenna expressed disappointment over the provincial pullouts from the carbon pricing plan, but plan to push ahead.
Responding to the provincial pushback, McKenna told reporters on Thursday she was "quite frankly perplexed" by Manitoba's flip-flop.
"Unfortunately now they’re with the federal Conservatives and Conservative Parties across the country who think that polluting should be free. There is a cost to pollution."
Though, Pallister said the federal government is to blame for the loss of another climate ally.
"The federal government made their green plan all about carbon tax and it shouldn't be. And that's why they're losing allies. Manitoba's a green province and we're proud of our green record," Pallister said on CTV's Power Play. He also cited the Trans Mountain pipeline and new B.C. LNG natural gas plant as points of irony.
"They've lost us as an ally in the dragon's den of climate change battles. Now we’re out and the fact remains that the federal government is losing allies because of its intransigence in terms of understanding the diversity of our country and that the best place to manage these challenges is respectfully in the provinces where we understand the economic challenges and the environmental challenges better than the federal government ever will in Ottawa," Pallister said.
The N.B. PC leader said that the province is already on track to meet its emissions targets and rejecting the tax wouldn't throw them off their plan.
This mirrors a similar argument from federal Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer, who has picked up this torch in Ottawa, pledging to produce a climate plan that doesn't include a carbon tax, though will still make "meaningful reductions."
Higgs is also in alignment with Scheer on another major energy issue: Energy East. Higgs said that with this week’s election of the Coalition Avenir Quebec and Francois Legault in Quebec it’s a good opportunity to try to get Trans Canada back to the table in hopes of reviving the Energy East pipeline project. He said if he eventually ends up in the premiership, he'd be looking to sit down with Legault to chat.
With files from CTV News' Rachel Gilmore