Atlantic premiers submit climate plans to Ottawa


The climate change plan Nova Scotia submitted to the federal government on Friday did not include a carbon tax, likely ensuring Ottawa will impose one on the province in the new year.

The Atlantic provinces had until Friday to submit their emission reduction plans to Ottawa and Nova Scotia was the only one to make its proposal public. It calls for performance standards for large greenhouse gas emitters to be administered by the provincial government, but it does not include a tax.

“We can’t stop the carbon tax,” Environment Minister Tim Halman told reporters on Friday. “So my staff is prepared to work with the federal Department of Finance and Environment and Climate Change Canada to control those revenues if they impose this carbon tax.”

These revenues are estimated to approach $1 billion or more by 2030, depending on the province.

The four Atlantic premiers wrote to federal Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault on Thursday asking for an extension to the deadline, but they were refused. Ottawa has said it will impose a federal carbon tax on provinces that do not submit a carbon pricing plan that it deems acceptable and that meets Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions targets.

Nova Scotia is proposing a system known as output-based pricing, and it would be mandatory for facilities emitting 50,000 tonnes per year. The system would only apply to Nova Scotia Power and the Lafarge cement plant near Truro, Nova Scotia, officials said.

The federal government has promised to cushion the impact of a carbon tax by returning the money to Canadians in the form of rebates, but Halman said Nova Scotia will also push to control those revenues to make the more affordable cost of living.

However, he was not adamant when asked if help to offset the higher cost of gas and home heating would come in the form of a provincial rebate. “Affordability is a priority and I can tell you we will help Nova Scotians,” Halman said. “In all likelihood there would be these discounts,” he added.

The price of carbon under the federal tax will increase by $15 per tonne in 2023 and then increase again each year until it reaches $170 per tonne in 2030. Nova Scotia officials said that the tax could add 14.4 cents per liter to the cost of gasoline. in the province by April 2023.

Halman said talks will continue with the federal department around his province’s proposal and how best to help people with the costs.

Guilbeault said he remains committed to working with Atlantic premiers over the next two weeks to address concerns about things like home heating costs.

Meanwhile, Anne Moores, spokeswoman for the New Brunswick Department of the Environment, said Friday the province will submit its carbon pricing plan by the required deadline. However, the province would not discuss its proposal until the federal government reviews it, she said in an emailed statement.

“While we are committed to taking action on climate change, we are deeply concerned about the impacts of carbon pricing on household affordability,” Mooers said. “We look forward to discussing these concerns with the Federal Minister and finding practical solutions.”

In a separate letter sent Thursday, Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Andrew Furey told Guilbeault that his province had prepared a carbon pricing proposal to submit by the deadline.

Nova Scotia submitted a plan in mid-August based on existing environmental goals that were set out in legislation last fall, but this was rejected by the federal minister, who said he had no not set a new price for carbon. The province has operated under a cap-and-trade program for large industrial emitters since 2019, but that is set to expire at the end of this year.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on September 2, 2022.