Saskatoon

Sask. residents split on whether carbon tax will change behaviour, fight climate change

Saskatchewan residents started paying a carbon tax Monday on greenhouse gas-emitting fuels — including gasoline — but a number of people say a carbon tax will not change their day-to-day lives.

New tax came into effect Monday, and has drawn mixed reactions from people in Saskatchewan

'When we put a price on pollution, I think it's going to change behaviours,' says Saskatchewan farmer Glenn Wright. (Submitted by Glenn Wright)

Saskatchewan residents started paying a carbon tax Monday on greenhouse gas-emitting fuels — including gasoline — but a number of people say a carbon tax will not change their day-to-day lives.

Saskatoon resident Barb Welland is one of those people.

"I don't know that the five cents a litre on gas is really going to change my lifestyle," she said. "And so maybe we need to be targeting those industries or corporations that really need to change in order to make a difference to climate change."

Saskatchewan does not have a carbon tax of its own design, so the federal government imposed one on the province — and the three others without their own carbon taxes — in an effort to discourage the use of fossil fuels.

The tax came into effect Monday and is scheduled to increase each year until 2022, though the federal government says 70 per cent of Canadians will receive more in climate rebate payments than they'll pay each year through the new carbon tax.

While she isn't sure how effective the federal carbon tax will be, Welland thinks the province is dragging its feet when it comes to phasing out coal and fossil fuels.

In particular, she said SaskPower should be held more accountable, as the biggest emitter of greenhouse gas emissions in the province.

"Why has this not been addressed? Why has the provincial government not come up with a very viable and realistic solution?" she asked.

"Is it because they're a Crown corporation? Is it because they're kind of untouchable?"

Barb Welland isn't sure a federal carbon tax will change behaviours, but she's called on the provincial government to do more to fight climate change.

Welland, who said she's of no particular political stripe, wrote a letter she titled "An Open Letter from a Regular Saskatchewan Citizen," which she sent to government officials and news outlets.

In it, she said she'd like to see more from the provincial government.

"I would like to see the Saskatchewan government stop making excuses, take responsibility, and tackle this issue with dignity, realism, intelligence, and hard choices for industry — Crown corporations included," she wrote.

CBC asked several people at the gas pumps on Monday if they thought the price increase — about four cents per litre — would change their habits.

Lisa Moffatt says the carbon tax won't change her habits. (Radio-Canada)

Lisa Moffatt shared the view that it's the bigger companies that need to make the changes, not the average people.

"For us, we're still going to have to heat our house — there's no other option. You still have to put gas in your car to go to work. I don't see what change it's going to make, except we end up paying more."

Don Froese said that while he is concerned about prices going up, the carbon tax does attempt to solve an environmental problem.

He thinks it will encourage people to consume less fossil fuel.

Don Froese says he's fine with the carbon tax. 'I have grandchildren,' he sayd. 'They need to be able to live in this world, too.' (Radio-Canada)

"I think it's one attempt. I don't think by itself it will solve the environmental problems that we face, but it's at least a movement in the right direction."

'It's going to change behaviours'

Glenn Wright has a roughly 365-hectare farm near Delisle, west of Saskatoon. While he thinks the carbon tax is a step in the right direction, he said he's disappointed Saskatchewan is not doing more to promote renewable energy or home retrofits.

"I'm not particularly happy with the policy we've got forced upon us in Saskatchewan, because we're not really doing a lot with that money other than rebating it back," said Wright, who previously ran for the Saskatchewan NDP.

Wright said the carbon tax is no silver bullet but it's one way to start making people think twice about wasting fuel.

He looks at it like a landfill: if you allowed people to dump garbage into the site indefinitely, it wouldn't be sustainable.

Until now, he said, Canadians have been "dumping pollution for free. So when we put a price on pollution, I think it's going to change behaviours."

When you put a price on pollution, you'll see more people wanting to do these kinds of things because there's much more of a financial incentive.- Farmer Glenn Wright on making green choices

Wright has made some environmentally conscious changes to his lifestyle — and he said they've had the happy upside of helping his pocketbook.

In 2008, he converted his house to use geothermal energy, which has reduced his heating bills, and sometime later installed solar panels, which he said now cover two-thirds of the energy for the house.

Last year, he got an electric car. He's paid about $600 to power the 25,000 kilometres he's driven.

"When you put a price on pollution, you'll see more people wanting to do these kinds of things because there's much more of a financial incentive."

About the Author

Ashleigh Mattern is a web writer and reporter with CBC Saskatoon, CBC Saskatchewan, and CBC North; and an associate producer with Saskatoon Morning. She has been working as a journalist since 2007 and joined CBC in 2017. Email: ashleigh.mattern@cbc.ca

With files from Jennifer Quesnel and Radio-Canada

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