Premier Scott Moe slams newly detailed carbon tax as a Liberal plan 'to buy your vote with your money'

Setting the backdrop of “rapidly approaching and potentially deadly risks” of climate change, Canada’s Public Safety Minister laid out the federal government’s climate change and carbon tax plan, that would apply to Saskatchewan.

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale says plan would benefit Sask. residents and fight climate change

Following an announcement on details of a federal carbon tax, Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe railed against it as a 'sham' that would do nothing for the environment and which would hurt the economy. (CBC News)

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe gave a withering critique of the federal government's newly revealed climate change plan, calling the carbon tax and rebate program a "sham" that would do nothing for the environment or the economy. 

"We already know that it's not good environmental policy. We already know that it's not good economic policy," he said. 

"Today we learned what it actually is. It's a cynical attempt by the Trudeau government to buy your vote with your money."

Moe said the only good news was that the federal government is accepting the province's own Prairie Resiliency plan to target climate change. 

Moe promised to continue the legal battle against a federally-imposed carbon tax, challenging Ottawa's jurisdiction. 

Inaction comes at a cost, warns minister

Setting the backdrop of "rapidly approaching and potentially deadly risks" of climate change, Canada's Public Safety minister laid out the federal government's climate change and carbon tax plan Tuesday.

Minister Ralph Goodale said Saskatchewan has faced damaging weather exacerbated by climate change — droughts, wildfires, poor harvests — which has added up to hundreds of millions of dollars in costs. 

"So doing nothing about climate change is not cost-free," he said, adding the federal plan will give people more disposable income, while addressing climate change.

"The economy will grow and pollution will go down."

Gas hike starts at 4 cents

Starting in April of 2019, Saskatchewan would face the same regulatory charges as other provinces on gas, he said. That would work out to about four cents a litre on gasoline, to be collected from fuel producers and distributors.

That cost would rise gradually over time, with only gas and diesel used on farms exempt from the extra charge.

Gas prices in Saskatchewan would increase by four cents, and would continue to gradually increase, under the new federal plan. (CBC)

Goodale said the estimated indirect and direct impact of the program would be $423 for the average Saskatchewan household with children. However, he said this would be offset with an incentive program.

"All of this money will be returned directly to the people of Saskatchewan," he said.

Under the new tax-free climate action incentive, most households filing federal income taxes will get a rebate, said Goodale. People living in rural areas would get a 10 per cent top-up, because of their geography and lack of access to transit.

For a typical Saskatchewan family with two parents and two kids, that rebate would be just over $600, he estimated. 

"And if they strive to become energy efficient, which is the objective, everything extra they gain, stays in their pockets," he said. "That's how an incentive works."

Small to medium-size businesses and other groups like municipalities, universities, hospitals, not-for-profit organizations and schools would also get extra support for their increased costs, he said.

Regina MP and Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale laid out the federal government's carbon tax plan for provinces like Saskatchewan that did not comply in coming up with their own carbon pricing. (CBC News)

Federal plan would be 'comprehensive'

Goodale said he had reviewed Saskatchewan's own climate change plan, which focuses on emissions from heavy emitters. He said the province's plan would lead to a one per cent reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by the covered sectors as of 2030.

"We've tried very hard to work with the Saskatchewan plan," he said. However, he said there were two holes with Saskatchewan's plan, with respect to electricity generation and natural gas pipelines.

The federal climate plan would apply to those two sectors as well.

Saskatchewan's plan would address 11 per cent of provincial emissions, but with the federal government's "comprehensive" approach, the plan could tackle as much as 60 per cent of emissions, he said.

"We'll have a dual approach that we think will be quite effective."

'Hard to believe' there won't be controversy

This federal backstop will apply in provinces that do not have climate pricing plans of their own that meet federal standards. Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and New Brunswick will see it beginning in April 2019, with Yukon and Nunavut brought on-board as of July 2019.

Goodale acknowledged there may be pushback from those subject to the backstop. He said the federal government has designed its plan to avoid legal or constitutional challenges.

"Will there be controversy? It's hard to believe there won't be," he said. "But we're going to work very hard to take a constructive approach as we always have."

Saskatchewan has been among the loudest voices opposing the tax, with Moe following his predecessor, Brad Wall, in fighting it.

On Tuesday, the former premier spoke out as well, taking to Twitter to say that western provinces that are "carbon intense and trade exposed" are disproportionately impacted by the tax. 

Wall took aim at Goodale for pushing Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's policies on Saskatchewan. 

Moe says carbon tax flawed

Moe said the carbon tax will hit families hard not just at the pumps, but in increases in their power and energy bills. Sask. Environment Minister Dustin Duncan said the federal plan will lead to an estimated additional $900 million cost to SaskPower alone to 2022, which the province would have to offset with what he estimated would be a six per cent rate hike. 

For carbon pricing to be effective, it would have to be accepted worldwide, with heavily emitting countries like China, the US and India also coming on board, Moe said.

I don't accept that Saskatchewan families will be better off.- Sask. Premier Scott Moe on federal climate change plan

The federal government has said it will be returning money to people in the form of rebates. Moe questioning why, if that was the case, Saskatchewan people could not just keep their own money in the first place. 

"I don't accept that Saskatchewan families will be better off. This is Saskatchewan. Most of us have to drive a lot," Moe said, adding that people in the province also face high heating bills. 

He said the federal government should stop trying to impose its plan on the province, until Saskatchewan's legal challenge was resolved. 

Sask. NDP says province has missed a chance 

Saskatchewan NDP leader Ryan Meili said the Sask. Party government had a chance to design its own carbon pricing plan and choose how the revenue was distributed.

Sask. NDP leader Ryan Meili responds to the federal government's announcement on details of the carbon tax, saying the province has lost the opportunity to make its own made-in-Saskatchewan carbon pricing model. (CBC News)

Under the federal Liberals' model, the money goes to consumers directly, but Meili said the province could have had more ownership of how carbon taxes were collected and distributed back, for instance, through PST reductions, if it had presented its own plan.

"That space has been vacated and left to Justin Trudeau because Moe refused to get into that discussion at all," he said.

He pointed to the NDP's own Renew Saskatchewan plan, rolled out at the party's most recent convention, as one way the province could show leadership on the climate change file and stimulate the economy at the same time.