New Brunswick

PC leader spends 2nd day campaigning against 'job killing' carbon tax

Progressive Conservative Leader Blaine Higgs spent a second day Tuesday campaigning against the "Trudeau-Gallant" carbon tax, saying it won't cut emissions, but will cut jobs.

Blaine Higgs reiterates pledge to 'meet or exceed' emission targets if elected, but provides few specifics

Progressive Conservative Leader Blaine Higgs delivered his jobs-focused anti-carbon tax announcement Tuesday at the Carpenter Millwright College on Grandview Avenue in Saint John's industrial park. (CBC)

Progressive Conservative Leader Blaine Higgs says the "Trudeau-Gallant" carbon tax won't cut emissions, but will cut jobs.

"And we've already lost enough of those," he said during an election campaign announcement in Saint John on Tuesday morning.

Higgs contends New Brunswick has lost 5,800 private-sector jobs under Brian Gallant's Liberal government.

"A PC government will ensure we meet our emissions targets and provide incentives for green energy and green technology development," without raising the cost of doing business and driving jobs and investments out of the province, he said.

But despite a second straight day of campaigning against the carbon tax, Higgs has provided few details to date about how his party would accomplish those goals if elected on Sept. 24.

The New Brunswick Liberal Association contends Higgs's approach to carbon pricing will end up costing all New Brunswickers.

"Because he has no plan, Blaine Higgs invites a federally imposed carbon tax," which he has said he would offset with tax reductions, Liberal spokesperson Greg Byrne said in a statement Tuesday afternoon.

That could total more than $380 million, said Byrne.

The Tory plan would see New Brunswickers pay an estimated $1,200 per household more per year out of pocket or jeopardize health care and education services, with deep cuts required, he said.

"Our plan costs New Brunswickers nothing and allows us to maintain and improve those services."

Federal carbon tax plan

The federal government has said the provinces must impose a levy on carbon, with a goal of reducing emissions to 30 per cent of 2005 levels by 2030 to comply with the Paris climate treaty. On Jan. 1, 2019, Ottawa will impose its own carbon tax, which it calls a "backstop," on provinces that don't meet its standard.

Gallant originally promised a revenue-neutral carbon tax system, which usually means other taxes are reduced to offset the tax consumers would pay on fossil-fuel consumption.

But since April, 2.3 cents of New Brunswick's 15.5-cent-per-litre gas tax has been shifted into a climate fund to be spent on environmental initiatives.

That share will increase every year over five years to 11.64 cents, but with no net increase to what consumers pay at the gas pumps.

Higgs, who also campaigned against the carbon tax on Monday, focusing on its impact on "taxed out" New Brunswickers, had estimated a 12-cent-a-litre carbon tax on top of the existing gas tax would cost a family about $1,200 a year.

"For job creators, the price and the stakes are even higher," he said Tuesday, his message shifting to the "drag" effect the carbon tax will have on the economy.

Studies indicate a carbon tax will add millions in costs for businesses, he said.

Fears job cuts

"The best case scenario is that consumers pay more. The worst case scenario is that their goods become too expensive to compete globally.

"That's when businesses have to cut jobs to lower expenses or they go under."

Businesses need stability, not uncertainty, said Higgs, predicting the provincial election will serve as a referendum on the "job killing" carbon tax.

He also reiterated his pledge to join a legal challenge by the Ontario and Saskatchewan governments aimed at killing the federal plan if he is premier.