Manitoba Liberals say 'bold' green plan is realistic, would make province carbon neutral
Green plan banning plastics, investing in transit, converting waste 'absolutely achievable,' Lamont says
The Manitoba Liberals believe the province can be carbon neutral by 2030 by re-investing carbon tax revenue, offering incentives to go green and restoring wilderness habitats.
Leader Dougald Lamont said a provincial Liberal government would return to the negotiating table with Ottawa to devise a carbon tax plan that would see lower-income people receive larger carbon tax rebates. The money would also be used to develop new incentives and shore up a $20-million green innovation fund.
Lamont released his party's environment plan on Friday — his first major policy document in advance of a provincial election that may come this year.
"We've consulted with lots of people to do it and it has the ambitious goal to make Manitoba carbon neutral by 2030, while growing the economy," Lamont told reporters.
"We do think that there's no contradiction there — that's something that's absolutely achievable."
Lower rebate for wealthy
His strategy on the carbon tax is in response to the Manitoba government's decision to pull its proposed flat carbon levy.
As a result, Ottawa imposed its carbon pricing scheme on Manitoba in April, which will see the carbon tax gradually rise to $50 per tonne by 2022.
That plan also includes rebates on the tax — something that would also be part of the provincial Liberals' plan, Lamont said.
Under the plan, "if you're over a certain income level you wouldn't get a rebate, but people at the lower income would get a larger rebate," he said.
The Liberal plan does not estimate a price tag for most initiatives, aside from the $20-million fund earmarked for innovation in green fuels, wilderness restoration and carbon storage.
The fund would be topped up with revenues from imposing a pricing system on large emitters and savings from phasing out tax breaks for the oil and gas sectors.
The green plan relies heavily on using new technologies proven on a smaller scale to succeed provincewide, Lamont said — for example, converting waste oil into diesel fuel, and turning organic waste into liquid and gas fuels.
"One of the reasons why [green technology] hasn't been developed as aggressively as it can … was a lack of urgency, but the other is that there was no carbon tax."
The plan would also ban single-use plastics and Styrofoam, and set a target of keeping all organic waste from hitting landfills by 2025.
Electrifying vehicle fleet
A Liberal provincial government would also create carbon sinks by expanding the size of Manitoba's depleting wilderness by 50,000 hectares by 2030, the plan says, and would invest in wetlands.
In addition, the Liberals would invest in more transit infrastructure, charging stations to power a growing fleet of electric vehicles and agriculture projects to reduce carbon emissions, and would encourage the shift of heavy duty trucks to electric technology.
The Liberal plan pledges support for big-ticket items, like an east-west power grid to supply Saskatchewan with Manitoba's clean energy and a commission to study the relocation of railways in Winnipeg.
Lamont said he would also stop the practice of taking hundreds of millions of dollars from Hydro's coffers to fund government spending. The party says raiding the public utility does not help to reduce Hydro's significant debt load.
"It's a plan that will work. It's realistic, it's bold, but it's also where we need to go as a province," Lamont said.
The Progressive Conservatives criticized the Liberals for proposing a change to the rebate Manitobans get back from the carbon tax.
"If there is one thing for sure, it's that the Liberals are always for higher taxes," Sustainable Development Minister Rochelle Squires said in a statement.