City council relents on carbon levy

Costs Red Deer $279,583

Red Deer will reluctantly pay its $279,583 carbon levy to the province.

City council unanimously approved the cost during debate on the 2017 draft operating budget on Thursday. But most councillors made it clear they were not happy.

As of Jan. 1, the carbon levy was included in the price of all fuels that emit greenhouse gases when combusted and will increase the cost of natural gas and fuels for city facilities, vehicles and equipment.

Council has unsuccessfully advocated that the new provincial levy be revenue neutral for municipalities and not impact municipal property taxes.

The province says money from the tax will be invested in green solutions and municipalities are waiting to find out how to apply for grants to access the money.

Coun. Ken Johnston wanted to know why the city will have to compete with other municipalities for grants to get back what the city is paying.

“Now all of a sudden we have to jump in a pool with a bunch of other folks, if you will, and try to claw our way back to $279,583,” Johnston said.

“I’d like to put $279,583 number on our council office wall and see where we are in 12 months from now.”

Coun. Tanya Handley called the levy a double tax since the city was being taxed by another order of government that has to be passed onto residents.

Handley recommended that residents “take it up with your MLA.”

Mayor Tara Veer said the levy represents .22 per cent of the city’s proposed property tax increase.

“It is with reluctance that we add it to our budget from a financial perspective given the economy we’re navigating through. But we need to do it,” Veer said.

“We had every intention of updating our Environmental Master Plan for our community because it’s the right thing to do, not because we were told to do it.”

She said the city will work diligently to get the money back for the community, but it will take time, energy and resources.

Councillors Dianne Wyntjes and Paul Harris want the city to be prepared to apply for whatever grants the province makes available.

“There’s an opportunity in front of us as a result of this decision that’s made by another order of government that we need to advantage of in this community so we can see the results on our tax base and for our citizens,” Harris said.

As a result of other budget discussions on Thursday, council further reduced the proposed property tax increase to 2.20 per cent from 2.28. The reduced rate would add $44.82 per year on a home with an assessment value of $325,000.

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