Sask. environment minister blasts carbon tax, but says he'll take rebate cheque

Carbon taxes won’t be hitting people at the pumps until April of this year, but residents of certain provinces, including Saskatchewan, will be getting rebates early when they file their 2018 taxes.

Households will get Climate Action Incentive rebates when they file 2018 tax returns

Environment Minister Dustin Duncan has been a harsh critic of carbon taxes, but says he'll apply for a new federal tax credit called the Climate Action Incentive. (CBC News)

Carbon taxes won't be hitting people at the pumps until April of this year, but residents of certain provinces, including Saskatchewan, will be getting rebates early when they file their 2018 taxes.

That could include people like Saskatchewan Environment Minister Dustin Duncan, who has been a vocal opponent of the tax.

He says he can't understand the logic of people getting rebates before they even start paying the tax.  

"I thought you paid the tax, and then the rebate money comes from that," he told reporters on Wednesday. 

The average household in Saskatchewan will get an estimated $600 back from the Climate Action rebate when they file their 2018 taxes. (CBC News)

But he was caught off-guard when one asked if he would accept his rebate cheque. 

"I don't know. I suppose I will be, yes. That's a good question, I actually hadn't thought about it that way," he said. 

He later added with a laugh, "I got kids to feed."

Environment Minister Dustin Duncan 0:49

Rebates offered in 2019

Lisa Gittens, a senior tax professional with H&R Block said it doesn't seem to be common knowledge that people will be getting the cheques this year.

"And so we wanted to make people aware, this applies right now to your 2018 taxes. And it's one of the few things that will affect them."

Households in Saskatchewan, New Brunswick, Ontario and Manitoba can apply for the credit, which is not tied to people's incomes.

The new tax credit is called the Climate Action Incentive. 

A chart from Department of Finance Canada shows what people in four different provinces would receive in rebates. (CBC)

The average individual in Saskatchewan would be eligible to receive roughly $300, with an average household of two adults and two children receiving a return of roughly $600.

"The idea is here the average household here in Saskatchewan would be money ahead," said Dwight Doering, president of Pro-Tax Consultants Ltd. in Saskatoon.

The rebate is determined by an estimate of how much households will be spending on carbon taxes.

"Ninety per cent of this carbon tax is going to be returned to individuals through this climate action incentive on the tax return," said Doering.

It's an election year, they're bribing us with our own money.- Dwight Doering, president of Pro-Tax Consultants Ltd. 

Why the credit before taxes?

Gittens explains the rebate applies to provinces that will be charged the federal carbon tax beginning this April, with a roughly 4.5 cent per litre tax applied to fuel.

The federal government calls the Climate Action Rebate an "incentive," as the extra money can be used to improve efficiency, said Gittens.  

"The idea is they're wanting to give people an incentive to make those cleaner choices."

Lisa Gittens with H&R Block says it's not common knowledge that people will get rebates when they file their 2018 taxes. (Submitted by Lisa Gittens)

Doering says he's doubtful behaviours will change as a result of the 4.5 cent increase at the pumps, until the carbon tax increases as planned, year-on-year.

"It doesn't sound like it's going to change people's driving habits. Maybe when it gets up to 14, 15 cents a litre, maybe you'll see fewer crossovers, pick up trucks and SUVs — maybe."

He considers the rebates little more than a redistribution of wealth.

"It's an election year, they're bribing us with our own money," he said, echoing Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe's criticism of the carbon tax and rebates, which come in advance of the October 2019 federal election.  

"That's typical. It happens all the time, it's an old government tactic."

Qualifying for rebates

Nearly everyone living in Saskatchewan, New Brunswick, Ontario and Manitoba will qualify for rebate, said Gittens, unless they were not a resident of Canada in 2018 or if they spent any time in prison.

People in rural areas, or anyone living outside of cities with a population of more than 100,000 people, will also get an additional 10 per cent bump on the rebate.

Gittens advises people to remember that only one person in each household can apply for the credit. If more than one person applies, they may both receive the rebate, she explained.

"But upon assessment, one of you may have to pay that money back. You want to avoid that at all costs."

Saskatchewan's argument against the federal government and its carbon tax will be heard mid-February at the Court of Appeal in Regina.

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