Carbon tax 'could be part of solution' but federal plan flawed, Manitoba premier says

Manitoba’s premier thinks a carbon tax “could be part of the solution” but wouldn’t commit to including one in the province’s climate action plan during an interview with CBC News.

Brian Pallister argues plan Manitoba originally proposed would be more effective than federal tax

Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister has said his government will launch a legal challenge against the federal government over its carbon tax, arguing the plan Manitoba originally proposed would be more effective in fighting climate change. (John Woods/The Canadian Press)

Manitoba's premier thinks a carbon tax "could be part of the solution" but during an interview with CBC Radio, he wouldn't commit to including one in the province's climate action plan.

"The idea, of course, is to change our habits, get us all thinking about our carbon footprint and get us focused on reducing it," Pallister told Marcy Markusa, host of CBC Manitoba's morning radio show, Information Radio, in an interview aired Friday morning.

"I think that idea is a great idea and we have to recognize we all must do our part in terms of reducing our impact on the environment in respect of carbon production. That is what Manitoba has done a great job of."

Manitoba's climate change plan originally included a carbon tax, but Pallister withdrew that part of the plan last October.

Pallister laid the blame for that with the federal government — which rejected his proposed flat $25 per tonne carbon tax because it fell short of the federal tax, which will gradually increase to $50 per tonne.

The federal carbon tax, currently set at $20 per tonne, came into effect in Manitoba and three other provinces at the start of this month.

Pallister then said his government will launch a legal challenge against the federal government over the tax.

Federal tax 'boiling the frog'

Pallister has previously argued other provinces with less-stringent carbon price plans haven't had the federal tax imposed. Manitoba doesn't get credit for investments it has already made in green energy, the premier argues.

He once again pointed to Quebec's cap-and-trade plan as one that's less stringent than Manitoba's original proposal.

Setting Manitoba's carbon tax higher than the rate at the beginning of the federal plan — which will increase each year until 2022, but will also include a carbon tax rebate — would have been more likely to encourage people to change their behaviour, the premier said.

"Boiling the frog, if you like — a little bit of a tax and then we'll give you the money back — how does that work to change behaviours?" he said.

"We're not thinking that the federal plan's totally bad, but we are thinking it lacks a number of issues that we're addressing with Manitoba's plan."

Manitoba's climate change plan also includes proposals to make the transportation and agriculture industries more efficient.

But it also aims to be "respectful" to those industries, "in the sense of making sure that we don't punish industries that create jobs for our people and that actually generate the money we need to cover things like health-care costs, or education costs," Pallister said.

Provincial governments in Saskatchewan, Ontario and New Brunswick have all launched court challenges against the federal carbon tax.