Saskatchewan

Sask. premier asks PM to pause carbon tax for one year

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe has sent a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau asking for a pause on the carbon tax in 2020.

Scott Moe still looking for in-person meeting with Justin Trudeau

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe is looking for an in-person meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to discuss his concerns. (Matt Smith/Canadian Press)

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe has sent a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau asking for a pause on the carbon tax in 2020.

The letter sent Thursday asks for an in-person meeting and expanded on concerns Moe raised last week.

It is Moe's second written statement directed at Trudeau since the election.

He initially posted a statement calling for a "new deal with Canada" and said he was handing Trudeau a fire extinguisher to put out fires burning in Western Canada. His initial ask was elimination of the carbon tax, a commitment to negotiating a new equalization formula and the pursuit of new pipeline projects.

Thursday's letter asks for Saskatchewan, Alberta and Newfoundland and Labrador to receive one-time per capita payments as a makeweight for money they don't receive through the federal equalization formula. The three provinces will not receive payments next year.

He also asked for a commitment to reform the formula in 2020.

Moe referred to Saskatchewan as a "perpetual donor" to the rest of Canada.

On the carbon tax, Moe is asking for a "one-year pause" on the federal carbon tax backstop. Moe said this would allow, "Saskatchewan and federal officials [to] work together to re-evaluate Saskatchewan's carbon emissions plans."

Moe said the province's plan will help the federal government reach its emissions reduction goals.

"We intend on doing that without a broad-based carbon tax that is taxing families when they fuel up at the pumps," he said.

On pipelines, Moe asked for specifics on when the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion will be built and wishes to discuss the construction or expansion of pipelines from coast to coast.

Moe said Thursday his most recent letter is not a "walking back" of earlier comments. He said Saskatchewan and Alberta are being penalized because Trudeau doesn't understand how wealth is created in those provinces.

Moe pointed to the news that energy company Encana was moving its head office from Calgary to the U.S. and changing its name 

"I would ask for the same type of support and backing that [Trudeau] is giving jobs that he views are important in Quebec, jobs at SNC-Lavalin, jobs at Bombardier."

Encana's American CEO said no jobs would be affected in Canada by the decision and that it was not due to politics.

Moe awaits meeting

Moe is also seeking a face-to-face meeting with Trudeau. They spoke over the phone the day after the election.

"We have not been able to confirm that meeting date as of yet. We have reached out many many many times," Moe said.

CBC asked the Prime Minister's Office about a potential meeting, but received no answer.

On Tuesday, Trudeau spoke with the mayors of Saskatoon and Regina by phone.

"These discussions have centred around how the different orders of government can help make life more affordable for Canadians, build a stronger middle class, and work collaboratively toward a stronger country. The prime minister looks forward to continuing discussions on these important issues with the premier," said PMO spokesperson Brook Simpson.

NDP leader calls Moe's equalization opposition 'convenient'

Saskatchewan NDP Leader Ryan Meili says Moe's recent letter to Trudeau is "not really news".

Meili said he would take the federal government to court on equalization as former NDP premier Lorne Calvert aimed to.

In 2005, an opposition Saskatchewan Party joined with the NDP in passing a unanimous motion calling on the then-Liberal federal government to take non-renewable resources like oil and gas out of the equalization formula.

The Saskatchewan government estimated that and other promised changes would put an extra $800 million into provincial coffers, year after year.

In 2006, the Conservatives formed government under Stephen Harper. A year later, the Saskatchewan Party defeated the NDP. In 2007, the Harper government brought in a new equalization formula. In March 2008, Wall said in question period that Harper asked him to drop the equalization suit.

"It is certainly convenient that they are bringing up equalization after the federal election when they didn't want to talk about it. They didn't want to cause [Conservative Leader] Andrew Scheer trouble by advocating for a better deal for us," Meili said.

"Now they want to talk about it suddenly because they can push against the government that they didn't want to see elected."

NDP Leader Ryan Meili says he doesn't think Premier Scott Moe's letters to Trudeau will have an impact. (Bryan Eneas/CBC)

Meili said there are problems with the federal government's economy-wide fuel levy.

"We definitely need to go back, re-evaluate what's happening and [create] a made-in-Saskatchewan plan that works for us, and that's what Scott Moe hasn't done. His actions to date have resulted in exactly the plan that's in front of us."

Meili called the letter an attempt to "change the channel" by turning focus away from issues his party is raising such as emergency room waits and classroom size and composition concerns.

When asked if he thought Moe's statements and letters to Trudeau would get him what he wanted, Meili said, "No."

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Adam Hunter

Journalist

Adam Hunter is the provincial affairs reporter at CBC Saskatchewan, based in Regina. He has been with CBC for more than 14 years. Follow him on Twitter @AHiddyCBC. Contact him: adam.hunter@cbc.ca

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