The federal environment minister on Thursday rejected a request from Atlantic Canadian premiers to extend the deadline for submitting their carbon plans.
In a statement to The Canadian Press, Guilbeault said his timelines “have been communicated clearly and repeatedly,” adding that provinces have until Friday to provide their carbon pollution pricing strategies. Provinces without climate plans deemed acceptable by Ottawa are subject to the federal government’s carbon tax.
“The Atlantic Provinces, like all other provinces and territories, have had a year to prepare their submissions…I want to be very clear about the importance of pollution pricing in making life more affordable for families,” Guilbeault said.
The minister was responding to a letter sent to him earlier Thursday by Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston – on behalf of the region’s four premiers – requesting a short-term extension and a meeting with him to identify “practical solutions to this problem”. “
Houston said the premiers are deeply concerned about the price increases that would result from a federal carbon tax, adding that the costs would amplify inflationary pressures in Atlantic Canada.
“This (extension) would allow us to resolve any remaining issues, engage in meaningful conversations about solutions for heating fuels, and discuss options for the federal government to support energy affordability in the region” , Houston wrote.
Nova Scotia, due to its cap and trade system for industrial emitters, is currently exempt from the federal carbon tax; however, this system, which was introduced in 2019, is set to expire at the end of this year. The cap and trade system has allowed Nova Scotia to avoid significant increases in gasoline prices.
Carbon pollution pricing systems in New Brunswick and Newfoundland and Labrador also meet federal standards and are not subject to the carbon tax. Prince Edward Island, on the other hand, imposes a fuel charge, but some industrial facilities not covered by its plan are subject to the federal carbon pricing system.
Earlier Thursday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters in Winnipeg that instead of asking for deadline extensions, Canada should accelerate its decarbonization given the global situation and the need for alternative forms of energy.
Trudeau was asked about Manitoba Premier Heather Stefanson’s recent request to Ottawa to suspend the carbon tax. Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe and Alberta Premier Jason Kenney have also criticized the tax.
“What the Prime Minister and others across the country don’t seem to be honest with Canadians is that in places like Manitoba, where the federal price for pollution applies, average families get more money from the price of pollution than the extra price on pollution is costing them,” Trudeau said.
“We’ve found a way to fight climate change while supporting families in need and that’s something we’ll continue to do.”
The price of carbon under the federal tax will increase by $15 a ton in 2023, then increase again each year until it reaches $170 a ton in 2030. Houston said the tax could add 14 .4 cents per liter to the cost of gasoline in Nova Scotia. Nova Scotia by April 2023.
But in a letter released Monday, Guilbeault said the province can decide how it handles revenue from a carbon tax. “Provinces can use proceeds from their carbon pollution pricing systems to support a range of goals and priorities,” Guilbeault said. The federal minister also said he rejected Nova Scotia’s plan submitted in mid-August because it did not put a price on carbon pollution. His department, he added, is open to “alternative proposals” that match the federal government’s approach.
Nova Scotia’s emissions plan consisted of a list of existing environmental targets that were set out in legislation last fall. They include phasing out coal-fired electricity generation by 2030, supplying 80% of the province’s energy from renewable sources by 2030, and zero-emission vehicles making up 30 % of car sales, also by that year.
Nova Scotia Environment Minister Tim Halman released a statement Thursday deploring the federal government’s rejection of his province’s climate plan.
“We had hoped the federal government would be open to our plan — a plan that’s better than a carbon tax for Nova Scotia. They weren’t,” Halman said. “Our daily energy consumption is not something that we can quickly reduce as prices rise.”
When it tabled its budget in March, the New Brunswick government promised $40 million worth of tax cuts to offset rising gasoline prices resulting from federal carbon pricing rules .
Meanwhile, Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Andrew Furey also weighed in Thursday, saying his province, like Nova Scotia, does not support further increases in carbon pricing.
“We support an Atlantic Canadian approach to this issue,” Furey said in a statement. “The market has increased fuel prices so much that the desired effect of carbon price increases has already occurred, and this is putting considerable pressure on Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.”
Furey added that his province is doing its part to fight climate change through the development of hydroelectricity and green hydrogen as well as performance standards for its offshore oil industry.
This report from The Canadian Press was first published on September 1, 2022.