Saskatchewan

'Uncharted' carbon tax impact not factored into Sask. provincial budget

The federal carbon tax will come to Saskatchewan on Monday, but whatever impact it will have was not included in the province’s recent budget.

Finance minister says budget has built-in 'flexibility'

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe says he doesn't think the province and its people will be paying a carbon tax very long. (Bryan Eneas/CBC)

The federal carbon tax will come to Saskatchewan on Monday, but whatever impact it will have was not included in the province's recent budget.

Minister of Finance Donna Harpauer said the budget has "flexibility' built in to deal with fluctuations in finances due to things like crop failure, forest fires or the impact of the carbon tax.

"We have to be nimble and we have to have the ability to then maybe find efficiencies somewhere else to cover costs and that's how we would deal with the carbon tax."

The finance minister said on budget day that a modest surplus of $34.4 million could be affected by many potential factors.

Harpauer said the tax was not factored in because it's "uncharted" territory. She said the impact on Crown corporations would be different than executive government.

Take for example, the province's fleet of vehicles. Fuel is set to rising by 4.6 cents per litre on Monday. Harpauer said the government has reduced travel in recent years and doesn't factor in gas price spikes in a given year.

She said the government expects a "large majority" of its buildings will be exempt, including schools and health care facilities.

"The federal government are imposing this without giving the information and details on what will be exempt and what will not."

She said if the carbon tax has an impact on finances it would be accounted for in upcoming financial updates.

SaskPower has estimated the carbon tax will cost it $546 million from 2019-22.

NDP calls not factoring in carbon tax 'irresponsible'

NDP finance critic Trent Wotherspoon said he expects "games" from the current government and its budgets. He said not including the carbon tax in the budget is "irresponsible."

"This is a government that failed to step up and protect Saskatchewan and have a plan in place that prevented the imposition of a federal plan on to the province," Wotherspoon said.

"It frankly doesn't surprise me that they aren't protecting our interests now when they're planning a budget that we need to all count on."

Premier expects carbon tax to be short-lived

When asked if he thought the carbon tax could throw off his government's balanced budget Premier Scott Moe said, "no, not at all."

Moe called the April 1 gas hike, "not an April Fool's joke."

Moe again said he would "use every tool in his toolbox" not to have a carbon tax imposed on the people of the province.

Moe said he does not think the province and its people will be paying the carbon tax very long. A court challenge by the province is currently in the hands of Saskatchewan's appeals court.

"We don't feel the federal government is on firm ground here and we look for a favourable decision with that. So we won't be paying this tax in the very near future in this province is our intent," Moe said.

When asked if he'd be claiming the carbon tax rebate, Moe said, "Absolutely, and I'm going to be contributing to the Saskatchewan Party to ensure that we can continue with this movement."

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 12 years. He hosts the CBC podcast On the Ledge. Follow him on Twitter @AHiddyCBC. Contact him: adam.hunter@cbc.ca

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