Alberta won’t support federal climate change plans without a pipeline

Saskatchewan's Wall says federal carbon tax plan shows disrespect, will hurt economy.

October 3, 2016   by CP Staff

EDMONTON — Alberta Premier Rachel Notley drew a line in the oil sands Oct. 3 when she said she will not support Ottawa’s climate change plan unless the federal government makes progress on new oil pipelines to Canada’s coasts.

“An ambitious public policy move like this, even one as worthwhile as this, needs to be built on top of a fundamentally healthy economic foundation,” Notley said at an event at city hall.

“And a new pipeline is what will give that, not only to Alberta, but to all of Canada.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced a national floor price on carbon as he kicked off debate in the House of Commons over whether Canada should ratify the Paris accord on climate change.


The federal plan calls for a $10-per-tonne price on carbon starting in 2018. That would rise by $10 per tonne each year until reaching $50 per tonne in 2022.

It would be imposed on provinces that don’t at least match the tax with direct pricing or through a cap-and-trade mechanism. All revenue would go to the province or jurisdiction where it was raised.

Notley’s NDP is bringing in its own broad-based carbon tax based on the equivalent of $20 per tonne of carbon emissions on Jan. 1. That is to rise to $30 a tonne in 2018.

The tax will raise the price of heating bills and gas at the pumps, but middle- and lower-income Albertans will see some or all of that cost rebated.

Notley said that to ask Albertans to pay even more than the $30-per-tonne level – and to help the rest of Canada – the federal government needs to couple its climate plan with action on energy infrastructure such as a pipeline.

“Albertans, as you know, have contributed to Canada’s prosperity for many, many years,” she said.

“For us to continue doing that, in order for us to come back from the oil-price crash that we’re all experiencing, we need Canada to have our backs.”

Notley had not previously tied support for a climate change plan to infrastructure, but did say it was hoped Alberta’s actions would build “social licence” to remove the province’s climate record as an impediment in discussions.

Alberta is being hammered by low oil prices that have turned multibillion-dollar budgets just a few years ago to a forecast $10.9-billion deficit this year, and unemployment and office vacancy rates are rising.

A pipeline to the coast would allow the province’s oil to fetch a better price on overseas markets.

Opposition Wildrose Leader Brian Jean said now is the wrong time for any carbon tax, given Alberta’s economic situation.

And, he added, Notley should not be offering any quid pro quo.

“Tying a single pipeline approval to (carbon) taxation sets a dangerous precedent. Alberta needs to make it clear to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau this will never be acceptable,” said Jean.

“Our province’s economic interests should not be held hostage by politicians in Ottawa.”

Mike Hudema of Greenpeace Canada said Notley is not showing leadership on climate change.

“It’s incredible that the Alberta government would withhold its support for an action to combat climate change until it gets a new pipeline that further accelerates the problem,” said Hudema.

“The Alberta government needs to realize that new pipelines aren’t compatible with a climate-safe future.”

Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall says Ottawa’s plan to unilaterally impose a price on carbon across Canada shows what he calls a stunning level of disrespect.

Wall says in a statement to media that the national focus on carbon pricing holds the lowest potential for reducing emissions, while potentially doing the greatest harm to the Canadian economy.

The premier says Saskatchewan’s economy is already hurting from a downturn in commodity prices and will be one of the hardest hit by a new federal carbon tax.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the federal Liberal government will establish a floor price on carbon pollution of $10 a tonne in 2018, rising to $50 a tonne by 2022.

Trudeau says the federal government will implement a price in any province or territory that doesn’t have either a carbon price or a cap-and-trade system in place by 2018.

Wall says the province estimates the carbon tax will cost the average family $1,250 a year and farm families will be among the hardest hit.

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