Saskatoon·Special Report

Saskatoon Meewasin byelection: Candidates talk federal carbon tax

Ahead of the Saskatoon Meewasin byelection, CBC Saskatoon checked in with all five candidates to get their thoughts on the biggest, political issues Sask. faces.

Wondering who to vote for? Here's what Saskatoon Meewasin candidates think about Saskatchewan's biggest issues

Running in the Saskatoon Meewasin byelection are (from left to right): Darrin Lamoureux, Ryan Meili, Shawn Setyo, Brent Penner and David Prokopchuk.

Wondering who to vote for in the upcoming Saskatoon Meewasin byelection?  

To help you decide, CBC Saskatoon is publishing responses from the five candidates on a different issue every day this week.

From racism to legalizing marijuana, we'll find out where the candidates stand on the biggest issues facing Saskatchewan people.

Federal carbon tax 

In Oct. 2016, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau took provinces by surprise when he announced they have until 2018 to adopt a carbon pricing scheme. (CBC)

Question: What is your personal opinion on the federal carbon tax? How should the money collected from a carbon tax be allocated?

Candidate responses

Ryan Meili, New Democratic Party: 

Ryan Meili, the Saskatoon Meewasin MLA, was chosen as the new leader for the Saskatchewan NDP on Saturday. (Ryan Meili/Facebook)

We need the government to step up and present a made-in-Saskatchewan response to climate change. That means making the biggest polluters pay for the pollution they cause, while providing supports for families, farmers and small businesses.

The Saskatchewan Party is playing politics with our future and making us more vulnerable to having a federal scheme imposed on us. We should be showing leadership, instead of playing political games.

It's the Saskatchewan Party's failure, over 10 years in power, to come up with a credible plan that has led to Ottawa imposing one on us. Every other province has approached the federal government with a plan that works for their local economy. We're the only province that has done nothing on this file.

If the Saskatchewan Party actually implemented the green technology fund they passed in 2009, they'd have a leg to stand on when negotiating with the federal government. Had that fund been implemented, the Conference Board of Canada estimates that more than $1 billion would have been added to the Saskatchewan economy and 8,500 Saskatchewan jobs would have been created in the first four years. We could really use those jobs now, especially since last week's jobs numbers show that Saskatchewan lost 8,800 full-time jobs since this time last year.

In 20 years, when our grandchildren ask us what we did to address the threat of climate change, we're going to have a hard time explaining that our provincial government spent more time and energy seeking headlines than proposing something that actually helps us build the clean energy infrastructure of the future.  

Brent Penner, Saskatchewan Party:

Brent Penner is running for the Saskatchewan Party in the Saskatoon Meewasin byelection. (Brent Penner/Facebook)

I am fundamentally opposed to a federal carbon tax being forced on Saskatchewan people, families and businesses. A carbon tax would disproportionately harm Saskatchewan's economy at a time when our resource, energy and agriculture sectors are under stress due to low global commodity prices. With the federal carbon tax plan, our trade-exposed businesses and carbon-intensive sectors will be put at a disadvantage because our biggest competitors — the United States, Russia, Belarus and Saudi Arabia to name a few — are not imposing similar taxes.

And if the point of a carbon tax is just to give it all back to impacted people, then there will be absolutely no impact on emissions, rendering the carbon tax into nothing more than a bureaucratic merry-go-round, as Premier Brad Wall has said.

The provincial government has estimated the annual cost of a carbon tax to be $1,250 for the average Saskatchewan family and anywhere between $10,000 to $100,000 for every farm family. A carbon tax would essentially be a tax on everything, increasing the price of gas, groceries and food at a time when family finances are tight. Now is not the time to be imposing a massive new tax on families that would seriously put our economic recovery at risk.

Major developing economies such as China, India and Vietnam are undertaking major expansions in conventional coal-fired technology, a large source of worldwide greenhouse gas emissions. Instead of shutting down our power stations, Saskatchewan, with our 0.3 per cent of [Canada's] 1.6 per cent of worldwide greenhouse gas emissions, can have a greater impact on climate change through innovation and technology. We are world leaders in carbon capture through our Boundary Dam 3 project in Estevan, Sask., which cuts emissions from coal-fired plants by 90 per cent. We are also innovating through SaskPower with its plans to move to 50 per cent renewable capacity by 2030.  

Let's use Saskatchewan's pioneered technology to better contribute to fighting climate change.

Shawn Setyo, Saskatchewan Green Party:

Shawn Setyo is running for the Saskatchewan Green Party. (Shawn Setyo/CBC)

I believe the federal carbon tax is vague and indiscriminate to certain sectors of our economy, like farming. 

The federal government will impose a carbon tax on Saskatchewan if the province does not implement one itself.

Rather than wait, and invite federally-imposed carbon pricing, we must act now to establish a fairer, made-in-Saskatchewan program to reduce carbon emissions, [one] that is tailored to our economy, one that fairly taxes big polluters while protecting our most vulnerable citizens and sectors.

David Prokopchuk, Progressive Conservative Party:

David Prokopchuk is running for the Progressive Conservative Party in the Saskatoon Meewasin byelection. (David Prokopchuk/Facebook)

The federal proposal for a carbon tax simply does not work for Saskatchewan because Saskatchewan's natural offsets are not being recognized or valued.

The federal government have arbitrarily priced carbon at $30 a tonne without first putting in place a federally-regulated mechanism to establish the value of carbon. As a Progressive Conservative, we've always believed that we are better off to offer incentives to mitigate carbon as opposed to penalizing and taxing.

As an example, it would penalize farmers — who, through their crops, absorb far more carbon dioxide than they produce — in growing those crops. It gives them no recognition for the value they bring to our entire globe. We have a federal government who seems to not understand Saskatchewan and [not] understand how our economy works.

My fear is that if he does impose a carbon tax on Saskatchewan, Mr. Wall will protest, and then just as in British Columbia, it will not implement a revenue neutral tax. He will just spend the money on the Saskatchewan Party government's pet projects, like the Regina bypass, or claim how he has managed to get closer to a balanced budget.

If an appropriate carbon pricing regime is put in place, the PC Party would see new technology and tax [measures] put in place to enhance things like our waste heat usage initiative, to grow fruit and vegetables locally instead of producing tonnes of carbon transporting that produce from California.

Darrin Lamoureux, Saskatchewan Liberal Party: 

Darrin Lamoureux is running for the Saskatchewan Liberal Party in the Saskatoon Meewasin byelection. (Darrin Lamoureux/Facebook)

The Saskatchewan Liberal Party supports the National Carbon Pricing plan because we want pipelines originating in Saskatchewan with supply chains built across Canada, to allow us to ship our Saskatchewan products to global markets. The country's four largest provinces have already adopted or are in the process of adopting carbon-pricing plans because of the threat that climate change poses. In order to remain competitive, carbon pricing is a reality we cannot ignore.

The Brad Wall approach is to try and use this issue as a smokescreen to deflect from their record of mismanaging the province's finances. Brad Wall and the former [federal] Conservative government refused to work with provinces on carbon pricing at a national level. As a result, not a single inch of pipelines to tidewater was built on their 10-year watch.

Recently, two major pipelines have been approved because of carbon pricing. These pipelines will create thousands of jobs for Saskatchewan oil workers due to increased production.  

Additionally, Saskatchewan is home to one of the country's largest pipeline manufacturers, which will employ more people due to the construction of these pipelines.

All revenue collected from carbon pricing in Saskatchewan stays in Saskatchewan. As part of a made-in-Saskatchewan solution we would support the elimination of personal income taxes for every Saskatchewan resident.

This is the second of a five-part series by CBC Saskatoon ahead of the Saskatoon Meewasin byelection on March 2. Each day CBC Saskatoon will publish one answer from each of the five candidates to a question regarding a pressing Saskatchewan issue.