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Yukon premier grilled over leaked documents on carbon tax

The territorial government has promised rebate cheques to Yukoners, once they start paying a carbon tax next July. But businesses may end up with tax credits instead. Opposition MLAs want Premier Sandy Silver to clarify what businesses can expect.

Premier has promised carbon tax rebate cheques to Yukoners, but businesses may get tax credits instead

(Kevin Yarr/CBC)

The Yukon government may not be sending carbon tax rebate cheques to businesses after all — documents obtained by CBC show the government is looking at tax credits, instead.

The territorial government has promised rebates to Yukoners, once they start paying a carbon tax next July.

But minutes from meetings of the "low carbon stakeholder committee" — which includes the Association of Yukon Communities, the Yukon Chamber of Commerce, the Yukon Contractors Association and the Klondike Placer Miners Association, among others — show the government has a different idea for businesses.

The minutes show that the president and chair of the Yukon Chamber of Commerce met with senior Yukon government finance officials, and David Morrison, chief of staff to Yukon Premier Sandy Silver, twice in August.

They discussed rebates for Yukon businesses, with the government preferring to gather data from businesses through corporate income tax filings, and then rebating the money the following year as a tax credit, not as a cheque.

Minutes from the committee's Aug. 10 meeting show that members had some reservations about how the federal plan might impact the effectiveness of the Yukon rebate.

Those minutes also refer to a committee roundtable, and show that the territory's Tourism Industry Association "doesn't think that the carbon tax will significantly impact the industry."

The same roundtable shows that two concepts were discussed between municipalities and the Yukon government, and that while Yukon's rebate design is "still unknown", it could be "based on fossil fuel receipts" or added as a supplement to the Comprehensive Municipal Grant.

The minutes from another meeting in September show that the Chamber of Commerce has stressed that while there was a "spectrum of opinions" within the committee, members had decided it would operate on consensus.

The chamber also informed Morrison that the stakeholder committee "doesn't support the rebate" and would rather see incentives and programs that would support behaviour changes instead.

The chamber also stressed to the government that the committee "doesn't want to be used as the entity that supported and approved the design of the Yukon government rebate."

'The premier is not up to date'

On Wednesday in the Legislature, Yukon Party MLAs loosed a barrage of questions at Silver, about the leaked minutes.

Yukon Party leader Stacey Hassard reminded the Premier that he's repeatedly told the Legislative Assembly that there were no details yet on the carbon tax.

"Obviously, the premier is not up to date on his own files," Hassard said.

Opposition finance critic Brad Cathers weighed in as well.

"Either the premier isn't paying attention to the file or what he's saying is actually falsehoods. Which is it?" Cathers asked.

Silver retorted that he's explained what's going on "ad nauseum."

'There are different options for a rebate model on the table and so you can see that from the document nothing has been decided yet,' said Premier Sandy Silver. (CBC)

He says the leaked documents prove the government is doing its job of consulting before deciding on how to distribute carbon tax rebates.

"We are committed to working with the business community to rebate the dollars from the carbon pricing mechanism and this document shows this work in action. There are different options for a rebate model on the table and so you can see that from the document nothing has been decided yet," Silver said.

"If something was decided, we would be the first ones to be in the Legislative Assembly talking about the decisions that we've made with the business community."

About the Author

Raised in Ross River, Yukon, Nancy Thomson is a graduate of Ryerson University's journalism program. Her first job with CBC Yukon was in 1980, when she spun vinyl on Saturday afternoons. She rejoined CBC Yukon in 1993, and focuses on First Nations issues and politics. You can reach her at nancy.thomson@cbc.ca.

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