Half of 'Made-in-Manitoba' green strategy is still good to go, despite carbon tax wrangling: plan author

The author of Manitoba's green plan says while the province is pledging to not charge a carbon tax, there's another megatonne of carbon reductions just waiting to be implemented.

David McLaughlin says the plan can cut emissions by a megatonne — the same amount a carbon tax would

David McLaughlin was hired in 2017 to run the Tory government's communications team and help roll out climate change strategy. He previously worked on their 2016 election campaign. (CBC News )

The author of Manitoba's green plan says while Manitoba is pledging to not charge a carbon tax, there's another megatonne of carbon reductions just waiting to be implemented.

David McLaughlin ran Premier Brian Pallister's 2016 election campaign and was subsequently tapped to write the "Made-in-Manitoba" climate and green plan. He now works at the International Institute for Sustainable Development as director of climate change for Canada.

The carbon tax was supposed to reduce Manitoba's emissions by one megatonne. With ongoing wrangling between the provincial and federal governments, it's not clear when a tax will be implemented, or whether the plan will make a detour through the legal system. Justin Trudeau has said ultimately, the federal plan will apply to Manitoba if a satisfactory plan isn't implemented by the province.

But the Manitoba plan also included a second megatonne of emissions reductions, through other, smaller changes. 

"That obviously is now going to have to be the focus," McLaughlin told CBC's Up To Speed. "Not much of the plan will have to be axed." 

On Friday afternoon, a provincial spokesperson said progress is being made on several of those projects. 

  • Carbon savings account: This is basically a five-year budget to make short-term reductions in emissions. The province's expert advisory council participated in a workshop with international experts last week, according to a provincial spokesperson. 
  • Organics diversion: 10 composting sites have registered with Manitoba Composts, increasing diversion by 29 per cent. But last year Winnipeg councillors balked at a potential $55-100 fee for curbside composting and pushed the discussion to the next council, being elected this month.
  • Efficiency Manitoba: Board members of new standalone agency appointed in May. CEO search continues. 
  • Heavy-duty diesel truck retrofitting rebate program: Manitoba Trucking Association and the province submitted an application to the federal government for funding support under the Low Carbon Economy Fund. Trucking Association president Terry Shaw said they've been working to get funding to retrofit trucks for years and were happy to roll it into the provincial green plan. 
  • Electric bus program for Winnipeg: Pushing for more electric buses, even though city has said it can't afford to do so. Some mayoral candidates now support this idea.

Other plan items with no update:

  • 5 per cent biodiesel mandate.
  • Coal phase out.
  • Recovery of ozone-depleting substances.
  • Reducing government's emissions in offices, transportation etc.
  • Agriculture best management practices.
  • Displacing propane in Churchill. (Complicated by rail-line washout.)

But even if all the remaining pieces of the green plan fall into place, the federal government has said it will implement its carbon tax plan on provinces that don't implement their own. 

While Manitoba's plan was for a flat $25 per tonne, the federal plan starts at $20/tonne in Year 1 and increases to $50/tonne. 

That means when you fill up your car starting in January — or later if there's a delay in federal implementation — instead of paying 5 cents a litre in carbon taxes, you'll only pay 4 cents. 

"Everything has changed and nothing has changed," McLaughlin said.  

Bill 16: The Climate and Green Plan Implementation Act will still need to be passed by the Manitoba Legislature before the plan becomes law, and has not been amended to redact the carbon tax. 


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