Pallister reaffirms Manitoba carbon tax after Doug Ford tweet

Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister is standing by his government’s plan to impose its own “made in Manitoba” carbon tax despite a deleted tweet from Ontario premier Doug Ford seeming to suggest otherwise.

Ontario premier deletes tweet saying Pallister is on board with no carbon tax

Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister, left, says "confusion" led to a tweet from Ontario Premier Doug Ford that said the Manitoba premier was on board with not imposing a carbon tax "on the people of our great provinces." (Michael Fazio/CBC; Nathan Denette/Canadian Press)

Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister is standing by his government's plan to impose its own "made in Manitoba" carbon tax despite a deleted tweet from Ontario premier Doug Ford that seemed to suggest otherwise.

In the tweet, which has since been deleted, Ford said Pallister had "reaffirmed his government's commitment to working together to ensure that no carbon tax is ever imposed on the people of our great provinces" during this week's Council of the Federation talks in New Brunswick.

The tweet was later changed to say the pair discussed "shared priorities for our country."

(CBC News)

In a conference call with media Thursday, Pallister blamed the tweet on "confusion on the part of the Ontario team."

"What you have to do there is give Premier Ford a break," Pallister said.

"I wouldn't make a big deal out of it, I would simply ask for you to give consideration to a fact that this a brand new team of people, just come together, and they're doing the best they can with the learning curve we all go through in life.

"They just became government a matter of a few days ago and so these are the kinds of things that happen."

Manitoba's plan 

Ottawa has ordered the provinces to impose a tax of $10 per tonne this year, and increase that amount by $10 each year until it reaches $50 in 2022. The feds say they will impose its price on any province that doesn't match it.

In Manitoba, the Pallister government has introduced legislation that will create a carbon tax with a flat rate of $25 per tonne and require the province to set five-year greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets.

Manitoba signed on to Ottawa's climate-change plan in February — just days before a deadline that would have seen the province lose roughly $67 million in federal funding from Ottawa's Low Carbon Economy Leadership Fund — and despite the fact the province's plan flouts the federal government's target of $50 per tonne in five years.

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At $25 per tonne, Manitoba will exceed federal targets for the first two years, but Ottawa has not signalled what specific action it might take if Manitoba is not compliant after that.

Environment Minister Catherine McKenna has said Ottawa will review each province's plan annually starting in 2019.

"I'm comfortable because we are going to be assessing every province's plan, and it's not just price. It's accessing the system that they come up with, and we are going to be doing that every year," McKenna told CBC News in February. 

"But Manitoba has said they want to sign on to the plan and I think that's really important." 

Ontario backs court challenge 

Under the newly elected Ford government, Ontario announced Thursday it will join a Saskatchewan court reference case challenging the federal government's right to impose a carbon tax on provinces that don't comply with its climate change plan.

Manitoba was reluctant to sign on to the federal government's plan until recently. It sought a legal opinion on the federal government's jurisdiction, but did not go as far as Saskatchewan has in initiating a court reference.

Pallister stuck by Manitoba's plan Thursday telling reporters he isn't concerned the province might be left at a competitive disadvantage if neither of its neighbours puts a carbon tax in place.

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"I believe the prime minister is sincerely going to invoke his own plan on Saskatchewan and Ontario and if he does, actually Manitoba would be at an advantage," he said.

"The federal government said they don't particularly like our plan in some respects, but that frankly doesn't matter to me, we've developed a plan that we think will work best for Manitoba environmentally and economically and we'll remain steadfast in bringing that plan forward."

Pallister has threatened to take the federal government to court should they try to raise Manitoba's carbon tax above the flat rate he is proposing.

The federal government has given the provinces until September to have their carbon tax plans in place.

With files from Sean Kavanagh