Love or hate Alberta’s carbon tax, there was always a glimmer of hope that there would a little bit of sugar to help the medicine go down.
The argument advanced by the Notley government was that, in acting proactively to address carbon emissions in Alberta, we would inoculate ourselves against a more intrusive and costly plan foisted upon us by politicians in Ottawa. Further, by showing Alberta has a credible plan to address our contributions to climate change, we take away a primary complaint of pipeline opponents.
Given that Alberta’s carbon tax is all but inevitable, we really hoped this would be true. Now we’ll see the theory tested.
The federal government announced that they’re setting a floor price on carbon emissions – starting at $10 a tonne in 2018 and rising to $50 by 2022. The federal law will give provinces leeway to implement carbon reduction plans as they see fit – whether through strict regulations, cap and trade, or an Alberta/British Columbia style carbon tax.
But, say the feds, all provinces will have an effective price on carbon or else Ottawa will go ahead and impose one. That means Brad Wall’s Saskatchewan has another thing coming if they continue to be the most vocal holdout against a carbon tax.
Premier Notley, to her credit, was swift and crystal clear in her response: “Alberta will not be supporting this proposal absent serious concurrent progress on energy infrastructure, to ensure we have the economic means to fund these policies.
“It is time for the Government of Canada to act on this issue. Albertans have contributed very generously for many years to national initiatives designed to help other regions address economic challenges. What we are asking for now is that our landlock be broken, in one direction or another, so that we can get back on our feet.”
Alberta won’t be playing along with Prime Minister Trudeau’s carbon plan unless we get some action on pipelines and any revenue from our carbon tax will stay right here in the province.
Premier Notley made the right play if she’s to salvage any good will in a province openly hostile to the carbon tax.
It might just work out. The Trudeau government seems to be willing to negotiate with the provinces around energy and the environment. When the federal government approved the Pacific Northwest LNG project, it attached to it the condition that BC government increase its carbon price so that it’s in line with whatever the federal government eventually imposes. Just over a month after BC Premier Christy Clark enraged environmentalists by refusing to increase their carbon tax, she seems suddenly open to a significant increase.
Albertans may never come around on the carbon tax, but if Premier Notley is able to parlay our carbon price into approvals for two new pipeline projects before the next election, it may take some of the edge off the arguments of her political opponents.
Whether it’s all worthwhile will be decided by Albertans on election day. In the mean time, we look forward to a meaningful discussion.
Alberta Enterprise Group is a member-based, non-profit business advocacy organization. AEG members employ more than 150,000 Canadians in all sectors of the economy.