Manitoba walks away from carbon tax

Province pulls out of plan to introduce $25-per-tonne carbon tax, joining three other provinces in stepping away from a federally mandated climate change policy.

Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister announced an unexpected policy change on Oct. 3, one warmly welcomed in some quarters and derided in others.

Having supported a “Made in Manitoba” carbon tax for months, the premier reversed course on plans to introduce a $25-per-tonne carbon tax later this year citing Prime Minster Justin Trudeau’s lack of respect for Manitoba’s ongoing green initiatives.

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“Ottawa acknowledged that our plan is the best in Canada,” said the premier in a press release.  “But they have also stated that they will impose their higher – and rising – carbon tax on Manitobans after one year.  This would mean twice the tax for poorer results.  That would threaten jobs and economic growth throughout our province and take money off the kitchen tables of Manitoba families.”

Manitoba was slated to introduce a carbon levy this December. The $25-a-tonne carbon tax would have amounted to an additional 5.3 cent-per-liter tax at the pumps.

However, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government has vowed to impose a carbon tax on provinces that do not introduce a $50-a-tonne carbon tax or a cap-and-trade system. That has led to two provinces – Saskatchewan and Ontario – taking the federal government to court regarding jurisdiction over the issue. Manitoba has indicated it could join the fight, while other provinces are balking at either raising or bringing in a carbon tax.

This announcement comes on the same day the federal government announced it will not be appealing a court ruling which said the federal government had not properly consulted on the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, creating even more flux and uncertainty in Canada’s energy and environmental strategy.

Closer to home, Brandon East MLA Len Isleifson fully supported the move of his leader, saying this decision reflects the concerns he has heard from the people he represents.

“I have heard from a number of constituents who are very pleased with the direction we are taking in regards to our Made in Manitoba Plan,” he said, “The Trudeau Tax (Carbon Tax) has always been a concern for both this government and our constituents and we will continue to fight for the best interests of Manitobans.”

Wab Kinew, leader of the Manitoba NDP, took to Twitter to announce his displeasure with Pallister’s decision.

“The Manitoba government is committing to giving large polluters a subsidy by making pollution free, and it’s a subsidy our children and grandchildren will have to pay for,” he said. “Pallister has abdicated his responsibility to be a leader on climate change.”

Likewise, the federal Liberals – who had previously praised the Manitoba government for at least pledging to institute a $25-a-tonne carbon tax - appeared confused by the Pallister government policy adjustment.

"We regret very much that the government of Manitoba has decided to pull out of the plan that they had previously submitted, which put a price on pollution. They obviously think that pollution should be free, but we don't agree with this flip flop from the government of Manitoba," said Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc in Question Period in the House of Commons Oct. 4.

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