Saskatoon

Sask. taxpayers will see how much they're paying in carbon tax on their utility bills

Saskatchewan taxpayers will see a new carbon tax line item when they open up their April utility bills, after the provincial cabinet's decision to show taxpayers exactly how much the new tax is costing.

U of Saskatchewan professor says it's a good idea to make carbon tax transparent

The average household will pay $2 per month more for power and an extra $9 per month for natural gas when the carbon tax comes into effect in Saskatchewan on April 1. The federal government has said money taken in by the carbon tax will be redistributed to Canadians via federal rebate cheques directly to residents. (Monty Kruger/CBC)

Saskatchewan taxpayers will see a new carbon tax line item when they open up their April utility bills.

That's because of the provincial cabinet's decision to show taxpayers exactly how much the new tax is costing right on their SaskEnergy and SaskPower bills, once it comes into effect in Saskatchewan next month.

The average household will pay $2 per month more for power and an extra $9 per month for natural gas, with the increases taking effect April 1.

The federal government has said money taken in by the carbon tax will be redistributed to Canadians via federal rebate cheques directly to residents.

A provincial government spokesperson said ministers responsible for SaskPower and SaskEnergy came to cabinet with recommendations on how to implement the carbon tax.

Cabinet then decided "the federal carbon tax would be applied to SaskPower and SaskEnergy bills uniformly as a line item to ensure consistency and transparency for ratepayers facing an increase on their bills," the spokesperson said.

Reminder to citizens of carbon price: U of S prof

The Saskatchewan government is currently in the midst of a legal challenge it hopes will stop the federal government's plan to put a price on carbon emissions.

Even if the reasoning behind showing the carbon tax on utility bills is politically motivated, Greg Poelzer thinks it's a good idea.

Poelzer, a professor of political science in the school of environment and sustainability at the University of Saskatchewan, said it's just good public policy, since it shows taxpayers what their actual costs are and how they are broken down.

"It may very well have political motives, but … I think it is at the appropriate level," he said.

"It's a reminder to a citizen what the price of carbon is."

Seeing how much you are being charged for a carbon tax is a good thing, said Greg Poelzer, a professor of political studies at the University of Saskatchewan. (CBC)

Poelzer said knowing the price of carbon will help citizens, and researchers like himself, make more informed decisions.

"From a democracy perspective, from a research and a consumer perspective, I think it is win, win, win. This is a good thing. Whether the motivation for that was for that [political] purpose is an entirely different question."

The new charges will be applied to SaskPower bills for electricity produced by sources like coal and natural gas.

Industrial customers will face an average increase of $164,600 this year, rising to $617,500 in 2022, according to a provincial government news release.

The federal government says 70 per cent of Canadians will pay less tax overall each year after the promised rebate cheque is factored in. Those who will pay more are likely those with the largest houses and vehicles.

The federal government said a Saskatchewan family of four will receive rebates totalling $609 in 2019.

'Get people to think about their energy use'

Brett Dolter, an ecological economist at the University of Regina, said the more power and fuel you use, the more you will pay for carbon pricing.

"That's really the goal of this policy — to get people to think about their energy use, see that cost, and start to take the actions that lower that energy use."

The carbon tax is set at $20 a tonne for 2019. The federal government has committed to increasing that price by $10 per tonne each year until 2022, when it will be $50 a tonne.

Brett Dolter is an assistant professor in economics at the University of Regina. His research is focused on climate and energy policy. (Submitted by Brett Dolter)

"So if you are paying an extra $10 a month now, you'll be paying an extra $25 a month in 2022, if you haven't taken any measures to reduce your energy use," Dolter said.

That means the incentive to reduce your energy use increases, he said.

While some may not have a choice when it comes to energy use, "many people would be in a situation where they could install insulation, buy a more fuel-efficient vehicle, get LED light bulbs — all these different actions they can take to use less energy and then therefore pollute less."

Premier Scott Moe has said carbon tax money collected in Saskatchewan will be put into a trust and given back to the people who paid it if the provincial government is successful in its court challenge.

He has called on the federal government to delay the tax until Saskatchewan's court challenge is complete.

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