Manitoba's environment minister says the province will consider signing the feds' climate plan in order to access a $2-billion clean energy fund, but only if it doesn't have to subscribe to the feds' $50-per-carbon-tonne target.
Sustainable Development Minister Rochelle Squires made the comment Tuesday after St. Boniface member of Parliament Dan Vandal said the province is leaving tens of millions in limbo that could fund provincial energy-saving projects.
"We've signed agreements with many provinces, and many provinces have moved on a wide range of investments," said Vandal. "What I find frustrating is that as an MP … our job is to advocate for our constituents and it's frustrating when the Province of Manitoba has access to these funds that I know our constituents want and they're not at the table."
Ottawa announced $1.4 billion in funding from the $2-billion Low Carbon Economy Leadership Fund last week, which will be spread among six provinces to start. Other provinces will also see funds in the new year but at the moment, Manitoba will not, said Vandal.
Manitoba, along with Saskatchewan, refused to sign the feds' climate change plan — called the Pan Canadian Framework — last December, which would see carbon emissions taxed at $10 per tonne to start with, rising to $50 a tonne by 2022.
Instead, the Pallister government revealed a plan in October that would set the carbon tax in the province at $25 a tonne with no plans to increase the tax, and said it would not sign the Pan Canadian Framework.
In order to qualify for the Low Carbon Economy Leadership Fund, it was understood Manitoba has to sign the framework agreement and agree to raise the price of carbon tax to $50 a tonne by 2022, Squires told media Monday.
But Vandal said while the province does have to sign the framework to see money flow, it does not have to agree to the price of carbon tax.
"Provinces do not have to have their policies in place to meet our federal benchmarks for respect to carbon pricing in order to sign this agreement," he said. "So they're quite separate initiatives. The [federal] minister of the environment has made that very clear."
He said Manitoba could be passing up tens of millions of dollars.
"Nova Scotia's allotment is $56 million, Alberta's — Alberta has a higher population than we do — is getting $150 million. So I would say somewhere between $56 and $150 million, probably closer to $80 or $90 million."
Squires confirmed Tuesday that Environment Minister Catherine McKenna had written a letter to her to discuss accessing the fund.
"I appreciate that Minister McKenna has now reached out to me about the allocation of federal funding under the Low Carbon Economy Leadership Fund. If the federal government is open to Manitoba signing on to the Pan Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change without prescribing a carbon tax level, we look forward to discussing this proposal going forward."