Manitoba's Opposition NDP will delay carbon tax bill: Wab Kinew
'They are delaying action in this province on climate change,' says sustainable development minister
The leader of the Manitoba NDP says the Opposition party will delay the Progressive Conservative government's bill to create a carbon tax.
Wab Kinew made the announcement at a Manitoba Chambers of Commerce breakfast Thursday morning. He said he's not opposed to the idea of a carbon tax but the current bill doesn't designate enough of the new revenue to support green initiatives.
"Manitobans will not be able to reduce their carbon footprints if they're being asked to pay $300 more in tax without having access to any other programs that are going to help them make that choice," he said.
In Manitoba, the Opposition party has the ability to delay up to five bills per session. The move would effectively slow the passage of the bill until November.
The Progressive Conservative government's $25 per tonne carbon tax — crafted as an alternative to the federal tax, which will rise to $50 per tonne by 2022 — is slated to take effect on Sept. 1.
Delay means $60M loss: Squires
Sustainable Development Minister Rochelle Squires slammed the NDP for its plan to delay the bill, citing an auditor general's report that said the NDP did not take action to address climate change during its 17 years in government.
"We're incredibly disappointed in the NDP stall tactics to prevent real action on reducing greenhouse gas emissions. They are delaying action in this province on climate change," she said.
Squires said the delay would mean the bill likely won't be passed until Dec. 1, 2018, missing the Sept. 1 deadline set by the federal government.
She said that delay will mean a loss of $60 million in tax revenue for the province.
No new programs resulting from tax: NDP
The province's 2018 budget estimated the tax would cost average households an extra $115 per year for natural gas and an additional $125 for gasoline. It would also bring in an estimated net revenue of $248 million in the first 12 months.
The province has promised the tax will be revenue neutral for Manitobans over the next four years, through tax relief in the form of an increased basic personal amount, small business tax reductions and a drop to the provincial sales tax the government has said is coming in 2020.
But Kinew said revenue generated by a carbon tax should go back to Manitobans in new programs designed to help people adopt greener lifestyles, like money for public transit, geothermal retrofitting for homes or helping people purchase electric cars.
Kinew said the Progressive Conservative government could still make legislative manoeuvres to push the tax through on schedule. Even if it doesn't, Kinew said the NDP delay wouldn't push the Manitoba tax back enough to risk Ottawa implementing the backstop measures it has promised if provinces don't comply with the federal tax plan.
He said he hopes slowing the bill down would give Manitobans time to learn more about its contents.
"The real move here is we want more Manitobans to pay attention to this," he said. "And we hope they realize that they're going to be paying a heck of a lot more in the form of a carbon tax without having any new programs there to help them transition to a low-carbon lifestyle."
Chuck Davidson, president of the Manitoba Chambers of Commerce, said he's still got plenty of questions about the carbon tax and he's not opposed to buying some time.
"We don't necessarily see what the hurry is," he said. "We're OK with a bit of a pushback on this."
Some businesses around the country have voiced concern about keeping up with U.S. competitors helped along by corporate tax relief in that country, Davidson said. He's still not convinced a carbon tax is the best way to help the environment.
"That's the approach we've always taken, is if the goal is to really reduce the carbon footprint in Manitoba, let's have a fulsome discussion on that, and is carbon pricing and a carbon tax the only way to do that?" he said.
"There's other ways you can do that."
Working with business, industry: Squires
Squires said the government is in constant communication with businesses and industry leaders to help them find ways to transition to a low-carbon economy.
"Where we can have initiatives, green initiatives, we can have a price signal that will help people transition to a low-carbon future and a lower-carbon option, and we're working with industries to ensure that we don't have any gaps in our economy," she said.
She pointed to the latest provincial budget, which included initiatives for a $40-million "green fund" to help pay for climate change mitigation initiatives, and said she is working with her federal counterpart on the Pan-Canadian Framework for Clean Growth and Climate.
"We have also been working with large emitters on an output-based pricing system that would help them achieve their economic goals, allow them to grow their business and thrive in the province of Manitoba, while adapting to a carbon pricing initiative and transitioning to the low-carbon future," Squires said.
With files from Sean Kavanagh, Cameron MacLean and Aidan Geary