Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall says he's stunned at the level of disrespect shown by the prime minister after his unilateral carbon tax announcement today, all while provincial environment ministers were meeting to discuss climate change strategies.
In the House of Commons on Monday, while the country's environment minister were meeting in Montreal, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced a federal carbon pricing deadline all provinces must comply with by 2018 — or the federal government will impose a price.
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The federal government's direct-pricing plan means polluters will pay $10 per tonne starting in 2018, increasing to $50 per tonne by 2022.
Already hurting from a downturn in commodity prices, Wall said, Saskatchewan will be one of the provinces hardest hit by a carbon tax because of its export resource industries.
"I cannot believe that while the country's environment ministers were meeting on a so-called collaborative climate change plan, the prime minister stood in the House of Commons and announced a carbon tax unilaterally," Wall said in a statement. "The level of disrespect shown by the prime minister and his government today is stunning."
Wall said that Saskatchewan industries and the province's families will feel the impact of this plan. He said his government estimates the carbon tax will cost the average family around $1,250 a year. He added Ottawa's plan will also impede the province's continuing efforts to export high-quality food products to global customers.
"The carbon tax will siphon over $2.5 billion from Saskatchewan's economy when fully implemented and make our province a less competitive place to do business," Wall said.
Wall said the carbon tax will likely push oil rig companies south of the border, resulting in fewer people working in Saskatchewan's already struggling oil and gas sector.
Before the talks were over, three environment ministers got up and left the climate change meeting in protest, including Saskatchewan's Environment Minister Scott Moe and ministers from Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador.
Moe told reporters a carbon tax or a cap-and-trade system would be a challenge for the province.
With cap-and-trade, permits allowing specific amounts of carbon emissions are sold to companies. The firms that want to emit more can buy credits from other permit holders.
Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas that scientists say is accumulating in the atmosphere and causing climate change that could have devastating effects around the world.
'Bad timing,' Sask. NDP says
Reacting to the news in Saskatoon, the Saskatchewan NDP's environment critic Cathy Sproule said the announcement came as a shock, considering the meeting with environment ministers was dubbed a collaborative climate change meeting.
"It's a pretty heavy-handed announcement at this time, when we know that Environment Minister [Catherine] McKenna is looking for a way to work with provincial governments, so a bit heavy-handed and bad timing," Sproule told CBC News.
Sproule added the province's Official Opposition has been waiting for the Saskatchewan Party to implement the green technology fund it promised back in 2009.
"It would basically be a fund that draws from the high emitters," she said.
"All the high emitters would have to contribute to this fund, and what it would do is create a [green] technology fund, called the climate change foundation, that would then create funding for innovative projects to reduce our impact."
Sproule said she's worked across from five different Saskatchewan Party environment ministers since she became critic, and every year when she asks for an update on the technology fund, she keeps getting the same response: the government isn't ready to implement it just yet.
"Right now we're saying let's get the technology fund up and running. We want to see how that looks first because we think it has a lot of potential," she said.
Sproule also slammed Wall for not taking climate change seriously, considering Saskatchewan is one of the country's worst polluters.
"For example, he said in Canada we only produce two per cent of the carbon emissions in the world — we're only 0.5 per cent of the population, so we need to do more," she said.
"He has missed opportunity after opportunity to transition to a green economy. Other provinces are doing it and we're being left behind, so as a sole crusader it's almost like he's looking more like a dinosaur all the time."
A previous version of this story claimed Environment Minister Scott Moe added Saskatchewan is working to boost "non-renewable energy." Moe was actually talking about renewable energy.Oct 03, 2016 3:24 PM CT