Sask. environmental group says carbon tax raising utility rates will fight climate change

Saskatchewan utility bills will be going up next month.

SaskPower, SaskEnergy bills going up

Saskatchewan homeowners will face an increase on their power and energy bills, starting next month. (Jeff Stapleton/CBC)

Saskatchewan utility bills will be going up next month, a move the province is blaming on the new federal carbon tax.

An environmental group says shifting taxes onto carbon emissions, as is happening in Saskatchewan, is an efficient way to address climate change.

The provincial government said utility bills are going up next month because of the federal carbon tax. It says the average home will pay $11 more per month for power and natural gas, and that amount will increase over time.

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

Kathleeen Aikens, a University of Saskatchewan doctoral student and member of Climate Justice Saskatoon, said the tax hikes are one important step in addressing climate change.

Aikens said carbon pricing has been effective in countries with strong policies. She said the cost of inaction will be far greater over the long term.

"The carbon tax offers us a fairly easy initial way to kickstart climate action, and it can be followed up by other measures," she said.

The hike will take effect April 1, according to a government news release. The average household will pay $2 per month more for power and an extra $9 per month for natural gas.

SaskPower Minister Dustin Duncan said the Crown was unable to avoid an increase given the new federal carbon tax. 

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. 

Premier Scott Moe said the 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 called on the federal government to delay the tax until Saskatchewan's court challenge is complete.

Premier Scott Moe answered questions about the federal government's carbon tax after question period on March 4, 2019. (CBC)

Moe said if the government is unsuccessful in their court challenge then the money in the trust would be given to the federal government. 

"SaskPower has a very robust plan in front of them and we don't feel this tax in anyway amplifies or enhances those opportunities to achieve that plan," Moe said. 

SaskPower's plan is to go up to a 50 per cent renewable mix by the year 2030. Moe said this will result in at least a 40 per cent reduction in emissions. 

SaskEnergy Minister Bronwyn Eyre said that Crown has more customers than ever, but the amount of natural gas being used has not increased. 

"This change happened through information, dedication and education — not unnecessary legislation," she said.

The new charges will be applied to SaskPower bills for electricity produced by power-generating sources like coal and natural gas, stated the release. The amount will likely continue to rise through the year 2022.

The extra charges will be identified in a separate line on customers' bills.

Industrial customers will face an average increase of $164,600 this year, rising to $617,500 in 2022, stated the news release.

Climate Justice Saskatoon and others argued in court for the carbon pricing plan. They said it's one necessary step in addressing climate change.

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.


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