Coalition pressures Manitoba government to say no to carbon taxes

Groups representing farmers and business owners are calling on the Progressive Conservative government to oppose a federally imposed carbon plan.

Groups want Pallister government to release 'made-in-Manitoba' carbon scheme

A new coalition is using an advertising campaign to lobby against a carbon tax in Manitoba. (Justin Fraser/CBC)

Premier Brian Pallister should hold a referendum before imposing any carbon taxes and join the Saskatchewan government to battle Ottawa's plan to reduce carbon emissions, says a coalition of a farm, business and taxpayers' groups.

The Manitobans Against Carbon Taxes Coalition says businesses and farmers have their own emissions reduction goals and the government shouldn't use carbon taxes as part of its climate-change strategy. (Sean Kavanagh/CBC)
The Western Canadian Wheat Growers Association, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business and the Canadian Taxpayers Federation have joined forces with a national group called to form the Manitobans Against Carbon Taxes Coalition and fight any carbon reduction scheme that involves taxing commodities such as fuel.

The groups have mounted an advertising campaign focused on members of the Progressive Conservative government, calling on them to step back from any plan for a carbon tax.

Manitoba's PC government has long been a holdout on Ottawa's emission-cutting scheme, under which provinces must use cap-and-trade, carbon taxes or a combination of both to combat climate change.

The coalition argues that small business owners' and farmers' personal ambition to become more efficient is a far stronger strategy than adding taxes.

"The least effective measure [to fight greenhouse gas emissions] is something the government is imposing. So we are calling on the government to focus on the fact that carbon tax is not going to be effective. It's going to be damaging to the Manitoba economy, to Manitoba jobs," said Jonathan Alward of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business.

St. François Xavier producer Gunther Jochum says farms have already become more efficient and produce less greenhouse gas emissions. (Justin Fraser/CBC)
Gunther Jochum, a Western Canadian Wheat Growers director who farms near St. François Xavier, said agricultural producers have used innovations on their farms for decades to become more efficient and produce less greenhouse gas emissions.

"We're doing the things that are helping the environment already, and a carbon tax … isn't going to improve that innovation and technology," Jochum said. 

Assurances from both the federal and provincial governments that farm producers would receive exemptions from some carbon taxes would not cover industries such as transportation, which would pass costs on to producers, he said.

The coalition also wants the Pallister government to unveil its own "Made-in-Manitoba" carbon reduction plan.

Pallister has promised a provincial plan for months and while his government has made nothing public, no action on climate change is not an option, said a statement from Sustainable Development Minister Cathy Cox.

"To be clear — the prime minister has stated that a carbon tax is coming. The choice for Manitoba is either a federal carbon tax, which would be punitive for the province, or a 'Made-in-Manitoba' approach to addressing climate change," Cox said in an email on Thursday.

"We will propose a plan that takes into account our previous investments in clean energy and provides sensitivity to our economic realities. These groups would be better served and would be better serving Manitobans if they joined in this effort."

The PC government is seeking a legal opinion on whether the federal government can impose a carbon tax on provinces that don't have their own plan under the Liberals' national scheme.

The Manitobans Against Carbon Taxes Coalition says the provincial government shouldn't agree to any carbon reduction scheme that involves taxing commodities such as fuel. (Justin Fraser/CBC)

Pallister said last month that the province would not release details about what a Manitoba carbon reduction plan might look like before getting a legal opinion.

The provincial government in Saskatchewan also has refused to sign on to a federal carbon price scheme and Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall has said he will go to court to fight Ottawa's plan.

In June, federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna said Manitoba and Saskatchewan have until the end of the year to sign on to the federal agreement or the provinces will lose out on millions of dollars to help cut emissions.

The newly formed coalition said they have popular support for opposition to a carbon tax, referring to recent polls suggesting a majority of respondents oppose the tax.

All the members of the coalition acknowledge climate change is a real issue. The government should employ methods to empower the members they represent to further find efficiences and drive down emissions without imposing taxes, they said.


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