The House

Brad Wall warns against a national tax on carbon

The Premier of Saskatchewan expresses his frustration at being referred to as the "dissenting Canadian voice" at the Paris Climate Change Conference and warns against the implementation of a national carbon tax.
Brad Wall is hopeful SaskPower can export its CCS technology to help other countries address climate change. (Kyle Bakx/CBC)

The Premier of Saskatchewan doesn't think implementing a nation-wide carbon tax is a good idea.

"We would not want to see a national tax implemented where the proceeds of the tax did not stay within the province of Saskatchewan and were not directed at the technological solutions on climate change," Brad Wall said in an interview with CBC Radio's The House.

Wall was in Paris this week to attend the first days of the United Nations' climate change conference.

He and his provincial counterparts are set to meet with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau within 90 days of the Paris summit to come up with a Canadian plan to tackle climate change.

The Saskatchewan Premier said he's aware Environment Minister Catherine McKenna has been tasked to look at the possibility of a national carbon tax, but he argues that would be problematic.

"If it's a national tax and it goes to national revenue, then it's just a wealth transfer, frankly, and we already have that," he said.

"I do not believe our economy in Saskatchewan, which is still comparatively strong, notwithstanding the oil prices...I do not believe what it needs now is another universal tax. It's just something for now I'm not prepared to do."

Alberta announced last month that it would introduce a carbon tax across the board, joining British Columbia in phasing in a $30 per tonne price on carbon emissions. 

Achievable targets

Another big item on the agenda when the premiers and the Prime Minister meet will be the setting of national emission reduction targets.

Again, Brad Wall has some concerns.

"Our advice will be, from Saskatchewan's perspective to the extent anyone is interested, that we look carefully at this issue of targets before we all agree to making them more aggressive," he said, adding that new targets need to be achievable.

Justin Trudeau has said he hopes to set a more ambitious target than that proposed last spring by the previous Conservative government — a 30 per cent reduction below 2005 levels by 2030. Trudeau has yet to offer up any numbers on what that target may be.

Canada's dissenting voice at the United Nations Climate Change Conference?

"It's been a bit frustrating to read that," Wall told The House.

Since he arrived in the French capital, the Conservative premier has been portrayed as a contrarian among his provincial counterparts by raising issues about the economic implications of fighting climate change.

It's a characterization that seems to frustrate Wall.

"Saskatchewan comes to this conference earnestly, understanding that we are a per capita high emitter, so we need to do better in our province," Wall said, pointing out that his province is investing in carbon capture.

"I don't know how Saskatchewan can be an outlier in this when we are offering a potential solution," Wall said — a solution that could be "more important that any carbon tax we could do nationally or some sort of cap-and-trade program that we could do nationally," he added.