Environment Minister Catherine McKenna says Ottawa will impose the federal carbon tax on Albertans “as soon as possible” after Premier Jason Kenney’s government kills the provincial tax next week.
Ms. McKenna said she’s disappointed Mr. Kenney tabled a bill that would repeal Alberta’s tax, which was introduced two years ago by the previous NDP government, but she says the requirement that the entire country have a price on carbon is non-negotiable.
“Alberta has the largest emissions in the country and we need Alberta to be part of our climate plan," Ms. McKenna said in an interview. “This just happened … but we’re going to move forward as soon as possible.”
The Alberta Legislature returned this week for the first time since the April election, and Mr. Kenney immediately introduced a bill that would end the province’s carbon tax next Thursday. He also promised a constitutional challenge of the federal carbon tax, adding to similar cases in Saskatchewan and Ontario.
Alberta’s current carbon price is set at $30 a tonne and has raised roughly $1.4-billion a year, which was used to fund renewable energy, transit and other green programs, as well as rebates for lower- and middle-income households.
The federal tax, known as the backstop, applies in provinces that don’t meet national standards. It is currently $20 a tonne, with almost all of that returned through income-tax rebates, and is set to increase annually until it hits $50 a tonne in 2022. It applies in Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and New Brunswick.
Taxpayers in those four provinces are already receiving those rebates for the coming year through their recent income-tax filings. Ms. McKenna’s ministry has previously said the process to claim rebates would be the same for any other province where the backstop is applied. However, she has not said how that would work specifically in Alberta, given that the current tax-filing season is over.
Ms. McKenna declined to offer a specific timeline for when the backstop would be in place in Alberta.
Mr. Kenney’s United Conservative Party government plans to focus on the province’s largest industrial emitters, which would pay $20 a tonne into a program that would fund technology to bring down emissions.
Saskatchewan also has a tax on large emitters but that has not spared consumers from the federal carbon price. Instead, the federal backstop still applies to emissions not covered by the provincial system.
Ms. McKenna said her department will review Mr. Kenney’s plan for industrial emissions, but she noted the province has not indicated the tax will increase along with the federal price.
“When he talks about a price on pollution [for large emitters] it didn’t seem to be rising in line with what we had said was the national price,” she said.
In the legislature Thursday, Mr. Kenney fended off questions implying his government is not taking climate change seriously.
“I have never denied the science of climate change and I have always acknowledged the important challenge of reducing greenhouse gas emissions," Mr. Kenney said during Question Period, pointing to the industrial-emissions plan.
"But what we will not do is punish Albertans for heating their homes and driving to work.”
Saskatchewan’s Court of Appeal issued a 3-2 ruling earlier this month that concluded the federal tax is constitutional, while Ontario is awaiting a ruling in a similar case. All of the provincial challenges are expected to be appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada.
Mr. Kenney met with Alberta Senators Thursday urging them to kill Bill C-48, which would ban oil-tanker traffic from British Columbia’s northern coast, and C-69, which would overhaul the environmental-assessment process for pipelines and other major resource projects. He also sent a letter to the Senate last week arguing against the bills. A Senate committee stalled the tanker-ban bill last week by failing to pass the legislation, although it will likely end up before the full Senate.
The letter, which was signed by all of Alberta’s provincial party leaders, including former NDP Premier Rachel Notley, also urged the Senate to adopt all amendments that Conservative Senators had attached to Bill C-69.
Senator Peter Harder, who represents the government in the Senate, said the Liberal government is open to “constructive amendments,” but not ones that would gut bills.