Wildrose calls for referendum on Alberta carbon tax

The Wildrose is calling on the Alberta government to hold a referendum before implementing its carbon tax.

Opposition unveils five-point plan to undo what it calls damage done by NDP government

Wildrose Leader Brian Jean (centre) was flanked by electricity and renewables critic Don MacIntyre and energy critic Leela Aheer when he announced the party's plan to stop damage to the energy sector. (CBC)

The Wildrose is calling on the Alberta government to hold a referendum before implementing its carbon tax.

The tax, which comes into effect on Jan. 1, 2017, is one of the controversial measures contained in the NDP's climate-change plan. 

Wildrose Leader Brian Jean said Thursday the NDP didn't mention the carbon tax during the 2015 election campaign, so they need to win approval for the idea before moving ahead.

"Put it to Albertans and let them have the opportunity to clearly give the Alberta government a mandate on that," he said.

"We have time now, because the federal carbon tax will not be in place for some time. And I would suggest that would be a great way to make sure that her social licence has the legitimacy from taxpayers."

The federal government has introduced a national carbon tax that is more aggressive than the Alberta plan. Under the federal plan, the price on carbon will increase to $50 per tonne by 2022.

Jean said the province should abandon its tax because it will only take money out of the economy before the federal tax kicks in.

Five-point plan 

A referendum was one of five points unveiled by the opposition party Thursday to undo what it characterizes as the damaging actions by the NDP.

The government has introduced an avalanche of bills this session to reform the electricity market and enable the move away from coal-fired electricity.

Wildrose wants the government to get rid of the proposed 100-megatonne cap on emissions from the oilsands and the 10-megatonne cap on new upgrading projects.

They want the province to abandon its plan to move from an energy-only electricity market to what is called a capacity market. They also want to stop Bill 27, proposed legislation aimed at helping the government reach its goal of having 30 per cent of the province's electricity needs come from renewables such as wind and solar by 2030.

Environment Minister Shannon Phillips had sharp words for the Wildrose five-step plan.

"I think it's five steps on the road to nowhere with respect to the future of the Alberta economy," she told reporters. "It's five steps to stopping a pipeline. It's five steps to having a plan from Ottawa imposed on us instead of making an Alberta plan.

"It's five steps towards slamming the door on all the new investment, all the new opportunity that can come from taking leadership on climate change."

Jean said if Wildrose wins the next election, he is prepared to take the federal government to court over the carbon tax, if legal advice suggests an avenue to pursue. 

"If there is the opportunity to set aside and to make clear the jurisdiction between the federal government and the provincial government as far as our resources, I think that is very a legitimate exercise," Jean said, "and I think Albertans would appreciate it."