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Canada PM says Alberta carbon-tax fight won’t affect Trans Mountain line decision

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau walks to a press conference during a visit to Edmonton on May 10, 2019.

JASON FRANSON/The Canadian Press

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says Alberta’s opposition to a carbon tax won’t influence his cabinet’s decision on whether to approve the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.

“Moves that a province may or may not make will have no bearing on the approval process for important projects like the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion,” Mr. Trudeau told reporters Friday.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney has promised to bring in legislation to kill Alberta’s provincial carbon tax as the first order of his new United Conservative government.

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Mr. Kenney has also promised to fight in court any move by the Trudeau government to replace the provincial levy with the federal one.

When asked if Alberta will get the federal tax, Mr. Trudeau said, “There are many discussions still to have on this.

“What we are going to ensure is that nowhere across the country will it be free to pollute.

“We’d much rather work with the provinces on that. But if some provinces don’t want to act to fight climate change, the federal government will, because it’s too important for Canadians.”

Mr. Kenney’s spokesperson, Christine Myatt, responded in a statement: “We look forward to approval of the Trans Mountain expansion project and fully expect the federal government to do everything in its power to see that this pipeline gets built.”

The federal tax has been put in place in Ontario, New Brunswick, Saskatchewan and Manitoba – provinces that have not implemented their own carbon levy.

A week ago, the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal ruled in a split decision that the tax imposed on provinces without a carbon price of their own is constitutional.

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The court said establishing minimum national standards for a price on greenhouse gas emissions does fall under federal jurisdiction.

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe has promised to appeal the decision up to the Supreme Court if necessary.

Ontario is also challenging the federal tax and is waiting for a decision after arguing its case in court last month.

Mr. Kenney’s office reiterated its promise to launch a similar challenge.

“We look forward to introducing legislation that will repeal the [Alberta] NDP’s job-killing carbon tax and are prepared to fight any federally-imposed carbon tax all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada,” said Ms. Myatt.

Mr. Kenney campaigned, and won, Alberta’s election last month on a platform that included repealing the provincial carbon tax.

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The bill is expected to be introduced shortly after the Alberta legislature begins sitting May 21.

Mr. Kenney has promised to replace it with a program of levies on GHG emissions by large industrial producers. The money raised will then be used for carbon pollution technology and research that Mr. Kenney says can be shared globally and will have a broader impact on arresting climate change.

He says the current carbon tax on home heating and gasoline at the pumps hurts working families, while having no effect on global GHG emissions.

Alberta’s program offers rebates for low- and middle-income families, and Mr. Trudeau noted the federal one does too.

“We’ve made sure that the average family is actually better off with the climate action incentive we return to them at tax time than they would be paying as an extra price on pollution,” said Mr. Trudeau.

“Fighting climate change while making it affordable for Canadians is at the heart of how we’re going to move forward.”

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Mr. Trudeau’s cabinet is expected to make a decision as early as next month on whether to approve Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, which will triple the capacity of oil shipped from Alberta to the west coast.

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