'Alberta is struggling': Notley defends carbon tax ultimatum

Premier Rachel Notley is defending her ultimatum to Ottawa, as the federal government announces its plan to impose a national carbon price.

'There needs to be some concerted efforts to reestablish growth in Alberta and that needs to happen first'

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley says the proposed federal carbon pricing plan will overburden Alberta's economy. (Codie McLachlan/The Canadian Press)

Without progress on pipelines, Alberta won't be supporting the federal government's carbon tax plan. 

Premier Rachel Notley is defending her ultimatum to Ottawa, in face of the federal government's threat to impose a national carbon price.

"We're just not prepared to accept that big of a jump in the prices until we get more progress on the matter of the pipeline," Notley said in a Tuesday morning interview on CBC Radio's Edmonton AM.

"Alberta's economy, and indeed Canada's economy, definitely need that strong fundamental and a pipeline to tidewater is going to be critically important to restoring growth both in Alberta as well as in Canada."

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said provinces must establish a minimum carbon price of $10 per tonne by 2018, which must rise by $10 each year to $50 per tonne by 2022, or the federal government will do it for them.

Price too steep, Notley says

Notley says the federal prices are too steep for Alberta's unstable economy.

"We don't think it's economically responsible to commit moving to $50 a tonne when the province of Alberta is struggling as much as it is right now, and the shock-waves of that are continuing to hit the Canadian economy, both east and west.

"It's not over yet, and there needs to be some concerted efforts to reestablish growth in Alberta and that needs to happen first."

Notley unveiled Alberta's carbon price scheme last year, announcing the price as $20 per tonne in January 2017, rising to $30 per tonne in January 2018. She says carbon pricing has value in Alberta.

It can diversify industry, reduce pollution and expand market access, Notley said, but only if levees are introduced at a pace which won't overburden the economy. 

'Sledgehammer' approach 

Notley is not alone in her criticism.

Several provinces and territories reacted angrily at the unilateral announcement, which was made in the midst of the environment ministers' meeting in Montreal, where the federal government was supposed to be hashing out an agreement on carbon pricing with the provinces. 

Conservative MP and environment critic Ed Fast accused Trudeau of taking a "sledgehammer" approach. Environment ministers with Saskatchewan, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador walked out of the climate talks early.

And Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall tore a strip off Justin Trudeau, describing the announcement as disrespectful and a stunning betrayal. 

Notley says unless Trudeau changes tack with the provinces, his plan to impose the levee will fail.

"The federal government simply can not do this on their own without stumbling into problem after problem," Notley said.

"We'll be a willing partner, but we need a willing partner in Ottawa who is going to stand up for Alberta when we have needs, which we do."