Carbon tax first heated issue of Yukon election campaign
The writ hasn't dropped, but the horses have already left the barn
Yukon Premier Darrell Pasloski has not yet called this fall's election — that's expected shortly after this week's royal visit — but the political parties are already in full campaign mode, waging a heated and bitter battle over a carbon tax.
The Liberals unveiled their carbon emissions strategy on Monday, prompted in large part by accusations aimed at their leader, Sandy Silver.
The governing Yukon Party has repeatedly warned that if elected, Silver will "force" a carbon tax on Yukoners — something the Yukon Party says it opposes.
Silver has countered by pointing out that Pasloski, along with the other first ministers, adopted the "Vancouver Declaration" on clean growth and climate change, last March. He says that means the Yukon Party is being "disingenuous" when it tells voters it would not introduce a carbon tax.
The Vancouver Declaration states: "First Ministers commit to: transition to a low carbon economy by adopting a broad range of domestic measures, including carbon pricing mechanisms, adapted to each province's and territory's specific circumstances, in particular the realities of Canada's Indigenous peoples and Arctic and sub-Arctic regions."
"Behind the scenes, this government is working on it and has been for several months," Silver said.
"Mr Pasloski is relying on that old adage that if you say something enough times, that many people will believe it, despite all of the evidence to the contrary.
"He thinks Yukoners can be conned, and we believe that that is cynical politics."
'Carve out' to the North on carbon tax?
Pasloski denies that his government is currently working on how to implement a carbon tax. He said he's never supported such a tax, the Vancouver Declaration notwithstanding.
He also disagrees with Silver's assertions that a carbon tax is inevitable, regardless of who's elected.
"We're the only party that's going to stand up against one," Pasloski told CBC. "Let me be clear: we are opposed to a carbon tax in Yukon, and I've said it on many occasions."
Pasloski refutes that the Vancouver Declaration commits his government to adopting "carbon pricing mechanisms," as stated in the document.
He says government officials are working on climate change objectives, but would not say that carbon pricing is among them.
"In fact that Vancouver Declaration gives specific mention [of] a 'carve-out' to the North because of the unique challenges that we face. And the reality is that a carbon tax will make everything cost more money.
"The Liberals admitted that a carbon tax will make everything cost more money, including diapers."
About those diapers...
Talk of diapers has been going on for a while.
Yukon Party began referring to costly nappies in the spring sitting, whenever the cost of living came up for discussion, and when talk turned to carbon pricing.
The Liberals picked up the thread this week, with party candidate John Streicker admitting that, "yes, the cost of diapers will go up."
Streiker's comment provoked an immediate reaction from the Yukon Party, which pounced on the statement as proof positive that a "Liberal carbon tax" would "negatively impact Yukon families."
The Liberals fired back, saying they could not impose a carbon tax on Yukon, because territorial law requires any new tax be agreed to by Yukoners in a referendum.
The Liberals say they would instead work with the federal government "to ensure all carbon revenue collected in the Yukon will be returned to Yukon and rebated to Yukoners."
The NDP, meanwhile, has not yet officially released its platform on carbon pricing, but leader Liz Hanson told CBC last week that she believes Pasloski could be "advocating for how we might more effectively use [a carbon tax]" so that Yukoners, especially those with low incomes, receive tax rebates.
Hanson said the Yukon government should also ensure that half of any carbon tax revenues go directly into renewable energy.
Next week, Community Services Minister Currie Dixon will attend a meeting of Canadian environment ministers in Montreal. Pasloski said Dixon will "very clearly" state his government's opposition to a carbon tax.