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‘More effective than a carbon tax:’ Saskatchewan digs in heels on climate change

Province is fighting federal carbon strategy.


MOOSE JAW, Sask.—The Saskatchewan government is doubling down on its climate change strategy and continues to defy Ottawa’s demand it put a broad-based price on carbon emissions.

Environment Minister Dustin Duncan said Wednesday the province is expanding emission limits based on production for facilities such as potash mines and pulp mills. Those facilities generate 11 per cent of the province’s emissions.

“We’ve made it clear that the federal carbon tax is ineffective and will not reduce emissions in Saskatchewan and we’ve made it clear that we do not believe the federal government has constitutional authority to implement a backstop in Saskatchewan,” Duncan said.

The federal climate plan calls for taxes of greenhouse gas emissions starting at $10 per tonne this year and rising $10 a year to $50 a tonne in 2022. It leaves it to the provinces to decide how to do that either through a tax, a cap-and-trade system or have a price imposed by Ottawa.

Saskatchewan is asking the Court of Appeal to rule on whether that plan is unconstitutional. The province has argued its climate change plan is enough to reduce emissions and a carbon tax would hurt the Saskatchewan economy.

Saskatchewan is the lone holdout from the federal climate strategy although has received support from Ontario, which is also challenging the plan in court.

A spokesperson for Environment Minister Catherine McKenna referred a request for comment to Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc. In an emailed statement, LeBlanc said Ottawa is pleased Saskatchewan is putting a price on pollution.

“While the price applies to a limited number of businesses, it is an acknowledgment from the province that putting a price on pollution is an effective way to tackle climate change while growing the economy at the same time,” the statement said.

“We encourage the province to submit this plan for evaluation.”

Ottawa set a deadline of Sept. 1 for provinces to submit their climate change plans for assessment to determine if they meet the federal government’s standard. But Duncan said Saskatchewan won’t be submitting its plan because he said the province doesn’t need approval.

“This is the right plan for the province of Saskatchewan and more than any of the work done by the federal government, it’s actually tailored to the specifics of Saskatchewan’s economy,” Duncan said.

Saskatchewan has already announced emission limits for electricity generation and methane from oil and gas.

Duncan said that the province’s new emission standards were developed after consultation with industry, as well as environmental experts. The new standards are expected to reduce emissions by 10 per cent or one million tonnes by 2030.

Saskatchewan has applied for more than $200 million in federal funding to fight climate change even though Ottawa has said the province will not be eligible because it has not signed on to the federal carbon tax strategy.

The Opposition NDP accused the government of essentially putting a price on carbon while missing out on federal funding.

“It’s a little bit rich for the Sask. Party to say they don’t want a carbon tax when they’re allowing the federal government to impose one on the province and now they are looking at what is essentially a carbon pricing plan,” said NDP critic David Forbes.

News from © Canadian Press Enterprises Inc. 2016

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