Pallister defends Manitoba climate plan amid widespread public skepticism

Premier Brian Pallister says it’s “too bad” that a recent poll suggests Manitobans don’t trust information about climate change coming from their provincial government.

National poll suggests Manitobans are least likely to trust provincial government on climate change

Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister speaks to reporters before a Council of the Federation meeting in Ottawa on Tuesday, Oct. 3, 2017. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)

Premier Brian Pallister says it's "too bad" that a recent poll suggests Manitobans don't trust information about climate change coming from their provincial government.

The Angus Reid poll released on Thursday suggests Manitobans are the least likely to trust what the province is telling them about climate change.

Just 24 per cent of people surveyed said they trust the province's information about climate change, compared to 46 per cent of people polled in Quebec, which had the highest level of trust out of all the provinces.

"I'm a farm boy. I understand the long-term relationship we have to have with nature and I understand the risk to our province and to our globe of not acting," Pallister said during an interview on CBC Manitoba's morning show Information Radio. "That's why we've been acting, and we're acting diligently."

The poll also suggests that Manitobans' support for the federal carbon tax plan increased after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that 90 per cent of the revenue collected from the tax would be returned to households in the provinces where it was collected.

Support among Manitobans surveyed went from 39 per cent to 44 per cent after the announcement. The federal government said it would impose a carbon tax on any province that didn't have either an acceptable tax or a cap-and-trade plan in place.

Angus Reid Institute surveyed 1,500 Canadians who are members of the Angus Reid forum from Oct. 24-29. The margin of error for the national survey is plus or minus 2½ percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

Pallister scrapped the carbon tax portion of the Manitoba Climate and Green Plan because he said the federal government would not commit to respecting the province's plan to price carbon emissions at a flat rate of $25 per tonne, rather than the federally mandated price of $50 by 2022.

He defended the province's plan to go ahead without the carbon tax, saying it is just one page out of a 67-page document that includes plans to capture methane gas, divert organic waste from landfills, preserve and restore wetlands, retrofit big trucks and establish a $100-million fund to invest in carbon-reduction projects. 

"The federal government chose to make this about a carbon tax, and I think that's too bad. It should be not about fighting with one another in this country, it should be about joining together on fighting climate change," he said.

Manitoba is spending billions of dollars to produce hydroelectric power that it doesn't need, and has completely eliminated coal for power generation, without getting credit for that from the federal government, Pallister said.

He pointed to the deal for Manitoba Hydro to sell power to SaskPower as an example of why Manitoba should get credit for its hydro investments.

"The federal government's investing billions of dollars in a pipeline to ship crude oil around the world to produce carbon, when they should be helping us help our neighbours produce less carbon," he said.

Despite the lack of carbon tax revenue flowing to the province, Pallister said he still plans to reduce the provincial sales tax by one percentage point by finding efficiencies in government.

With files from Marcy Markusa