Calgary

Alberta carbon-tax rebates to at least offset fuel-price increases for most people

Rebates included as part of Alberta's new carbon-tax policy should make most people in the province better off financially, according to the chairman of the panel that came up with the plan.

Bottom 60% of earners recommended to receive rebates, while low-income Albertans to be 'much better off'

Andrew Leach, chair of the Alberta's Climate Change Advisory Panel, and Environment Minister Shannon Phillips speak to reporters in this file photo. (Terry Reith/CBC)

Rebates included as part of Alberta's new carbon-tax policy should make most people in the province better off financially, according to the chair of the panel that came up with the plan.

"That was a necessary condition for acting on this," said Andrew Leach, who headed up Alberta's Climate Change Advisory Panel, which created the document upon which the province's new climate-change strategy is based.

The Alberta government estimates the phased-in carbon tax will amount to roughly $470 in increased heating, electricity and transportation costs for an average household in 2018, assuming that household consumes the same amount of fossil fuels as it did in 2015.

But the panel's recommendations also include a "consumer rebate which would be sufficient to offset the impact of carbon pricing on most households in the bottom 60 per cent of income in Alberta, and would make most low-income Albertans much better off."

Those are just the recommendations, not yet the official policy.

But Environment Minister Shannon Phillips said Monday that "at least two-thirds of households will see their increased costs rebated."

She declined to get into more precise numbers as to how big those rebates would be or how they might scale based on income, saying further details will be released in the "coming days and weeks" and a specific financial plan for the rebates will be included as part of the province's 2016-17 budget.

The 'lion's share' to fare better

Leach said it was "crucial" to the panel's overall recommendations that the carbon tax be distributed in such a way as to not overly burden "lower-income or vulnerable communities."

That doesn't mean every single lower-income person will be better off, he noted, as it will depend on how much they consume in fossil fuels.

"There are going to be some who use significantly more emissions than the average person within those income groups," he said.

"But, in the lion's share, the lower part of the income distribution will be made better off."

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