Editorial: Change to Manitoba’s climate plan only makes sense

It seems Premier Brian Pallister finally sees what Prime Minister Justin Trudeau can't or won't.

Manitoba’s adjustment to its climate change plan only makes sense when one considers the ongoing battle against the initiative across the country.

On Oct. 3, Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister announced that a planned $25-per-tonne carbon tax would not be implemented when the province’s “Made in Manitoba” climate change plan comes into effect in December. The premier pulled out of the federally mandated tax plan when Ottawa refused to refrain from imposing a carbon tax increase moving through the next four years, either by forcing the hand of the province or by imposing the increase themselves.

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The provincial government’s proposed – and now scrapped – carbon tax would have cost consumers an average of 5.3 cents per liter more at the fuel pumps. This bump would, obviously, spread to other consumer products as the cost of producing and transporting, well, everything increases.

In Ottawa, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is holding fast to his position that Canadians voted for a carbon tax when they elected the Liberals to a majority government in the 2015 federal election. While it is true that the Liberals were voted to a majority government, it can easily be argued that only Eastern Canada granted them that mandate. After all, just 40 of their 184 seats won in that election were outside of Eastern Canada. In essence, all four Western Canadian provinces did not support this government.

Regardless, the Canadian parliamentary system is what it is. True electoral reform is a topic for another editorial.

Last spring, the federal government passed legislation that would impose a $20-per-tonne carbon tax on provinces that do not implement their own. That tax would increase $10 per year through 2022.

At one time, Saskatchewan stood alone against the initiative, ultimately taking the Trudeau government to court over jurisdiction of the issue. Then, Progressive Conservative Premier Doug Ford was elected in Ontario and the country’s most populated province joined Saskatchewan in the fight.

Meanwhile, Prince Edward Island’s climate change plan does not include a carbon tax and, should an administration change occur in Alberta in 2019, the United Conservative Party’s Jason Kenney has promised to kill the ruling New Democratic Party’s carbon tax.

Only Quebec, with its cap-and-trade system, and British Columbia, which has been taxing carbon emissions since 2008, have committed to following through on Trudeau’s climate change plan. This places these two substantial provinces outside of the majority based on provincial populations. Their continued adherence to the taxation strategy is detrimental to their economies considering individuals and businesses are free to move to jurisdictions where the cost of living is less and the ability to make more income is widespread.

Had Pallister’s Progressive Conservative government continued on their track to implementing a carbon tax, they were at an even greater disadvantage. Unlike the bookend provinces of Quebec and British Columbia, this province lies between the two leaders in the fight against the carbon tax. It would be far easier for Manitobans to consider “greener pastures” in neighboring Saskatchewan and Ontario.

“Ottawa acknowledged that our plan is the best in Canada,” Premier Pallister said 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.”

It seems Pallister finally sees what Prime Minister Trudeau can’t or won’t; that a climate change plan that includes carbon taxes or cap-and-trade strategies is detrimental on a province-by-province basis within Canada’s borders, and a country-by-country basis internationally.

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