Premier Jason Kenney says Alberta’s carbon tax has about two weeks to live.
Kenney says the Carbon Tax Repeal Act is to be introduced during next week’s legislature sitting and will have a proviso to end the tax by the end of the month.
“By May 30 there will no longer be an Alberta carbon tax,” Kenney said Monday at a news conference outlining some of the legislation coming from his new United Conservative government.
An end to the tax brought in by the former NDP government will put an estimated $1.4 billion a year back in the pockets of taxpayers, he said.
The levy is charged on home heating using fossil fuels and on gasoline at the pumps.
Ending the tax would open the door to the federal government imposing its tax, as it has done with four other provinces that wouldn’t bring in their own carbon pricing: Ontario, New Brunswick, Manitoba and Saskatchewan.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who was in Edmonton last Friday, wouldn’t say if his government would immediately charge the federal tax if Alberta ditched its own, but stressed that no province will be exempt.
Opposition Leader Rachel Notley said the repeal “sets the stage for a made-in-Ottawa, a made-by-Justin-Trudeau carbon plan to be imposed on Albertans.
“I don’t think it’s wise,” the NDP leader said. “And we will certainly make the case vigorously that it’s not wise.”
Getting rid of the carbon tax was a central policy pillar in Kenney’s successful campaign last month to win the election. He defeated Notley’s party, achieving a strong majority.
Kenney ridiculed the NDP carbon fee as a thinly veiled tax grab that penalizes consumers while having no effect on greenhouse gas emissions. He also held the levy up as a symbol of what he has said was an interventionist NDP government that was stifling economic recovery by imposing additional fees and red tape.
On the campaign trail, Kenney promised to file an immediate court challenge on the constitutionality of the federal carbon tax if he won the election.
He promised to file the court papers by April 30; however, his cabinet was not sworn in until that day. In the two weeks since, no challenge has been filed.
Kenney said Monday the lawsuit has been delayed and may not be filed at all.
He said his government wants to review court decisions in Saskatchewan and Ontario before it decides if it will challenge the federal tax in court.
The Saskatchewan Court of Appeal recently ruled in a split decision that the federal tax imposed on provinces without a carbon price of their own is constitutional.
The Ontario government is waiting for a decision on its court challenge.
“The right thing for us to do is wait and see what the Ontario Appeal court decides,” said Kenney.
“We can take both of those decisions into account as to whether or not to launch our own separate challenge or whether just to support (the) Saskatchewan and Ontario governments in what will be inevitable appeals to the Supreme Court.”
Kenney’s platform promised he would create jobs and move Alberta’s oil- and gas-based economy forward by reducing regulations and cutting taxes.
On Monday he said a bill to cut corporate income tax by one-third will also be rolled out next week.
It is likely to follow Kenney’s plan to reduce the 12 per cent corporate tax by one percentage point on July 1, and then cut it again by one point in the first days of 2020, 2021 and 2022, to ultimately bring it to eight per cent.
His government also aims to bring in a bill to reduce the current $15 an hour minimum wage for workers 17 and younger.