North

Opposition presses Yukon government for carbon tax details

Interim opposition leader Stacey Hassard says the new Yukon government has not been up front about what's under discussion with Ottawa.

'It's very difficult to speak to your constituents and tell them you don't have answers'

An official with the federal environment department said this week that the North was being considered separately from the provinces, for a carbon pricing scheme. According to the official, all options were on the table for the territories, including exemptions. (Yvon Theriault/CBC)

The opposition Yukon Party is accusing the territorial government of misleading the public about what is — or isn't — on the table when it comes to a proposed carbon tax.

Interim opposition leader Stacey Hassard was responding to comments made this week by a federal official, who said the North was being considered separately from the provinces for a carbon pricing scheme. According to the unnamed official, all options were on the table for the territories, including exemptions.

Interim opposition leader Stacey Hassard says the Yukon government has not been up front about what's under discussion with Ottawa. (Submitted)

Hassard said that's exactly what his party wants and fought for as government — an exemption for Yukon. He says the territory faces special circumstances, and needs special consideration. 

"It sounds like that's where the federal government is going now, or giving us the opportunity to go, even though we've been told over and over again that that wasn't the case, that couldn't happen," he said.

Premier Sandy Silver campaigned last year on a pledge to work with Ottawa to implement a carbon pricing mechanism in Yukon. 

'Still being worked on,' premier says

Hassard says the new Yukon government has not been up front about what's under discussion with Ottawa.

"It's very difficult to speak to your constituents and tell them you don't have answers," he said.

The premier, though, says there simply are no firm answers yet — "all of those things are still being worked on," Silver said. 

Silver also challenged the federal official's comments this week, saying everything is not on the table. A territory-wide exemption like the Yukon Party has advocated for is out of the question, he said. Exemptions would likely be targeted to certain communities, or goods or sectors.

'We will discuss how a price on pollution will apply given the unique circumstances of the North; not whether a price on pollution will apply,' federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna said in a statement. (Monty Kruger/CBC)

A statement from federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna on Thursday implies the same.

"We will discuss how a price on pollution will apply given the unique circumstances of the North; not whether a price on pollution will apply," the statement says. 

Silver says his government still believes in carbon pricing, so long as it "doesn't affect people the wrong way."

"There's lots of things we have to consider when we put the standards in for the carbon pricing," he said.

"The full details of that should be available by the fall, and we'll be working until then."

With files from Nancy Thomson

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