PEI

P.E.I. government tables carbon pricing plan as deadline looms

P.E.I’s highly anticipated carbon pricing bill was finally tabled in the legislature Thursday.

Plan needs to pass by the end of the fiscal year next week

The carbon pricing model would see the province's record high gas prices increase by another four cents per litre. (CBC)

P.E.I.'s carbon pricing bill was finally tabled in the legislature Thursday.

The proposed levies on fossil fuels will mean an increase of about four cents per litre at the pumps for Islanders. P.E.I. is already a year behind in implementing federal carbon pricing. 

"We negotiated on behalf of Islanders the best deal that we could. We plan to implement it in a way that we can help people change over," Minister of Environment, Energy and Climate Action Steven Myers told CBC News after the first reading.

The carbon pricing will generate revenue for the government, which Myers said will mostly be put toward programs helping Islanders transition to renewable energy, like electric cars and heat pumps, or programs like subsidized rural transit service.

Some Islanders will still see some money in their pockets from a carbon pricing rebate — up to about $140 a year, depending on household income — but it's significantly less than in other provinces. 

"We plan to use our really strong relationship with Ottawa to get more opportunities in this province, more money into this province, to do our transition even quicker so that we can help people, particularly low income, switch over on all fronts much, much quicker," the minister said.

"I'd like to approach this from a fiscal conservative environmentalist standpoint, where we can do both and you'll see benefits on both fronts, either in your pocketbook or in your environment by making these changes."

The proposed bill would see P.E.I. omitted from the increased tax on furnace oil and propane, but likely only for another year.

Greens wants federal Liberal plan

For provinces that have adopted the federal carbon-pricing system — Ontario, Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan — rebates are required to be 90 per cent of the revenues collected. That results in quarterly cheques, which amount to rebates in the hundreds or thousands of dollars for families.

Minister of Environment, Energy and Climate Action Steven Myers says instead of rebating the money to Islanders directly, government will use the money to help Islanders make the switch to renewables. (Ken Linton/CBC)

It's what Official Opposition critic Hannah Bell wanted to see implemented in P.E.I. as well.

"That would actually be the best solution for Islanders because it would give them the most money back and let them make up their own minds how they could spend that rebate," the Green MLA said.

"It's a plan that is not transparent. We don't know where most of that money is going to be going. And, you know, this is [over $30 million] of revenue that the government is going to be pulling in from this. We're only going to see $8 million of that go back to Islanders. So where's the rest?"

Bell said she and her colleagues will ask these questions when the bill comes to the floor for debate.

Myers expects the bill will be called for its second reading on Friday. The house does not sit on Monday, so there are only four legislative working days before the deadline of March 31 — the end of the fiscal year.

"We'll want it to come rather quickly. And if it's going to take a number of days to debate that, we have to get at it right away because we want to get to some place for the new year," he said.

But Bell said her party is not happy to see the bill come in the final hour.

"It's disrespectful to Islanders who have been waiting for a solution that works for them. It's disrespectful to small business owners who are going to be impacted," she said.

"It's disrespectful to the house that needs to actually have the time to debate properly and ask questions and make sure that we're doing the best for Islanders."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Nicola MacLeod grew up on P.E.I., where she is now a multi-platform reporter and producer for CBC. Got a story? Email nicola.macleod@cbc.ca

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