When Alberta's 2017 budget was announced on Thursday, Albertans got their first look at where their carbon tax dollars are going.
Over the next three years, Alberta's NDP government plans to bring in $5.4 billion from the carbon levy. More than a quarter of that — 28 per cent — is going straight back to Albertans in the form of household rebate cheques.
That might sound like good news to the many low- to middle-income Albertans who qualify for the tax rebates, but opposition politicians at the Alberta legislature say the size of the tax-rebate pool is proof of the government's failure to price carbon efficiently.
Wildrose Party leader Brian Jean said the tax will continue to "raise the price of everything for everyone."
Interim Progressive Conservative leader Ric McIver said the fact that Finance Minister Joe Ceci left the carbon pricing announcement out of his budget speech Thursday was proof that the Alberta government was backpedaling on the tax.
"They're a lot less proud of their carbon tax this year than they were last year because they didn't mention the word carbon tax or climate change in the speech at all," McIver said immediately following Ceci's speech.
"I wonder if they're backing off from that because I think they're starting to get the idea of just how unhappy Albertans are with the carbon tax and the climate change plan — and they ran away from it in the speech."
In addition to the 28 per cent chunk of the tax that's sent right back to Albertans, another 19 per cent is used to fund grants to renewable energy companies, green-tech developers and to help communities that are transitioning away from coal power.
"They're talking about 28 per cent in rebates plus giving money to different companies and different industry sectors," McIver said. "If there's ever a tax that you have to give away half of it back to undo the damage that the tax itself does, that should be all the evidence the government needs to know it's a bad tax."
Approximately 60 per cent of Alberta households will get a full rebate on their carbon tax costs, while others will get a partial rebate, according to the government.
Second to household rebates, the next largest piece of the $5.4-billion carbon revenue pie is a 24-per-cent piece devoted to "green infrastructure" spending on things like public transit.
The remaining segments include 11 per cent to pay for energy efficiency initiatives like upgrading to LED light bulbs; 10 per cent for small business tax reductions; five per cent for coal phase-out agreements; and three per cent earmarked for Indigenous communities.