Oilpatch endorsing climate-change plan to avoid shutdown, Brian Jean says

Wildrose Leader Brian Jean says oilsands companies are going along with the NDP’s climate change plan because it is better than facing a total shutdown through higher taxes.

Rock star Neil Young among those applauding the new NDP plan

Wildrose Leader Brian Jean says a carbon tax will make gasoline and heating oil more expensive for Albertans. (CBC )

Wildrose Leader Brian Jean says oilsands companies backed the NDP government's climate change plan because it is better than facing a total shutdown from higher taxes.

"I think most Alberta oilsands companies are just happy that they are going to be able to continue operating in Alberta," Jean told a news conference Monday

A number of oilsands companies spoke in favour of the plan, which was released Sunday by Alberta Premier Rachel Notley at a news conference.

CNRL chairman Murray Edwards, who attended the news conference,  said Suncor, Cenovus and Shell were pleased that Notley had given them "the position of leadership on climate policy."

Jean suggested the companies decided to co-operate with the NDP rather than face higher taxes that would have driven them out of business. 

"Why they would stand up behind the NDP is up to them to explain. Not up to me," Jean said. "But I work for Albertans, I don't work for large oil."

The new Alberta plan includes a tax on carbon, a cap on oilsands emissions and phasing-out coal-fired electricity.

The carbon tax would make gasoline and heating oil more expensive. The government plans to use some of the money to offer rebates to people who can't afford the higher costs.

Jean said the  carbon tax would, on average, raise the cost of gasoline by $365 each year and annual heating costs by $230. He said the extra costs, along with higher taxes and minimum wage hikes, will make the Alberta economy even worse.

Phasing out coal will hit some Alberta communities hard

Under the plan, Alberta will phase out all coal-fired electrical generation plants by 2030.

Jean said that will hit some communities hard, and it is unclear who will end up bearing the costs.

Instead, the Wildrose plan would gradually move towards natural gas generation, which emits greenhouse gases at a lower intensity.

Jean said Alberta is a world leader in environmental issues. He said Notley is being needlessly aggressive with her new plan.

"To accelerate six additional [coal-fired] plants simply means that our economy is going to take a further hit," he said.

"We don't believe that's necessary at this stage. We need to be in lockstep with the Americans on our strategy and we are currently ahead of them."

Conservative leader Ric McIver said the carbon tax is a cash-grab in the name of the environment. He said the NDP has only offered vague promises about what the money will be used for.

"Their claim, their headline, is that it's a climate change policy," he said. "But it's not. It's a climate tax policy."

McIver said the resource companies support the plan for a 100 megatonne cap on oilsands emissions because they can vote the government out before they come into effect.

Rock star Neil Young, who was born in Canada but has lived in California since the 1960s, told CBC Vancouver any plan that reduces greenhouse gases is a good thing.

"If you're destroying a naturally pristine, beautiful thing to get fossil fuels out of the ground, instead of preparing for the future and trying to create a world that your grandchildren are not going to have to be working overtime digging their way out of, filling the holes that we dug, then anytime you can improve that, in my view, it's a better thing," Young said.

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation said the government-commissioned climate change report shows the average family's costs will rise by $900 per year by 2030, if the carbon price increases at the predicted rate.

"Where did the Alberta government get the idea that Alberta families had an extra $900 lying around they didn't want?" asked Paige MacPherson, Alberta director of the CTF.

"A carbon tax is a tax on everything that moves, so on top of the direct cost, the cost of food and clothing will rise."

The Notley government has said the carbon tax will be "revenue neutral," but hasn't explained how.

"Revenue neutral always means revenue neutral for government, not for taxpayers," said MacPherson. "In B.C. the tax credits given back to taxpayers did not benefit as many people as the carbon tax hurt."


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