PEI

MLAs debate who should get carbon tax revenues, Islanders or their government 

The Official Opposition says it wants more of the carbon tax rebated back to Islanders but the province’s environment minister says his plan will ensure Islanders pay less carbon tax down the road.

‘We're going to help everybody’

The province says it spends all of the carbon tax money it receives, about $18 million, on programs like free heat pumps to low-income Islanders. (Kevin Yarr/CBC)

The Official Opposition says it wants more of the carbon tax rebated back to Islanders but the province's environment minister says his plan will ensure Islanders pay less carbon tax down the road.

In the P.E.I. Legislature Thursday, Green Party MLA Hannah Bell challenged Environment Minister Steven Myers to adopt the federal backstop carbon pricing program, which she says would put more than $1,000 back into Islanders' pockets rather than the $100 the province is proposing. 

Bell said that's what was promised. 

"When the current minister was in opposition, he often said of the carbon tax, that Islanders can't trust government to give you your money back," Bell said during question period.

"So, here we are, the minister is now in charge, and Islanders are not getting their money back. I guess he was right, he just didn't know he was going to be talking about himself."

'Not this government. Not today'

But Myers fired back saying the Green's plan would not help all Islanders. He said the free heat pump program, as one example, will get Islanders off fossil fuels, which means they will pay less carbon tax in the first place. 

Environment Minister Steven Myers says the Green’s plan would not help all Islanders. (Wayne Thibodeau/CBC)

"It's not going to be enough as the carbon levy increases to just simply give people their money back and say, 'we're going to forget about helping you switch over, while the rich people like you guys get EVs, while the rich people like you guys can pay for your own heat pumps and we are going to leave the poor people behind.' Not this government. Not today," said Myers.

"We're going to help everybody, we're going to transition, with a just transition, because that's what they deserve."

The province spends all of the carbon tax money it receives, about $18 million, on programs like free heat pumps to low-income Islanders, electric car rebates and cutting the cost of public transit.

The province says there are plans for small rebates for Islanders of about $100.

Where the money goes

Provincial officials say this fiscal year, the province is forecast to spend: 

  • $7.4 million on active transportation.

  • $3.5 million on heat pumps.

  • $2.5 million on electric vehicle rebates.

  • $465,000 on public transportation.

The province wants to expand that heat pump program, so that less furnace oil is being used on the Island, by increasing the threshold for who can receive a free heat pump.

Islanders with an annual household income of $35,000 or less are eligible for a free heat pump. The province plans to continue to push that up, starting with a jump to $40,000 in the near future. 

'Privilege allows you to access programs'

About 1,000 heat pumps have already been installed, and about another 500 are on order.

'If you have all eligible Islanders receiving a rebate cheque, they get to decide how to use that and you can still have a heat pump program as well,' says Green Party MLA Hannah Bell. (Wayne Thibodeau/CBC)

But Bell points out that free heat pumps help people who own their homes, or pay utilities on top of their rent, but most renters don't see any benefit from a heat pump program. 

"Privilege allows you to access programs that maybe other Islanders can't," Bell said in an interview after question period.

"If you have all eligible Islanders receiving a rebate cheque, they get to decide how to use that and you can still have a heat pump program as well." 

Myers said the carbon tax is federally mandated, and the province has no choice but to raise it by April 1.

That's why, he said, the province is moving ahead as quickly as possible with some of its initiatives, to help offset that increase.

"If we can get people to switch to electric home heating products, they are going to be protected from these wild swings. If we can help people get switched to electric vehicles, it's going to help protect them from these wild swings and if we can get them to use public transit I can guarantee that the Toonie transit will stay in place for as long as I'm kicking around here."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Wayne Thibodeau

Prince Edward Island

Wayne Thibodeau is a reporter/editor with CBC Prince Edward Island. He has worked as a reporter, editor, photographer and video journalist in print, digital and TV for more than 20 years. He can be reached at Wayne.Thibodeau@CBC.ca

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?

now