Eric Clark, of Edmonton, was one of many drivers who stopped by Costco Gasoline in Gasoline Alley to fill up his tank on Dec. 30, 2019. (Photo by SUSAN ZIELINSKI/Advocate staff)

Brace yourself for the carbon tax central Alberta

Federal carbon tax imposed New Year’s Day

Central Albertans should prepare for a new, and pricier year.

On New Year’s Day, the federal carbon tax will be imposed on all Albertans, but Reg Warkentin, with the Red Deer & District Chamber of Commerce, said there’s a very strong argument to be made the carbon tax disproportionately affects rural Albertans, and mid-sized cities like Red Deer.

“For us in Red Deer, the demand for gasoline is so inelastic. People will basically pay what they have to pay. It’s just less money to spend elsewhere in the economy,” said Warkentin, the chamber’s policy and advocacy manager.

“One fill-up is pretty marginally, but it adds up at the end of the year, and especially with home heating.”

In 2017, the provincial NDP’s carbon tax resulted in a 4.49 cent-per-litre tax on fuel, which rose 2.24 cents per litre in 2018. The UCP killed that tax in May, and it continues to battle the federal carbon tax in court. The new tax is expected to add about seven cents to a litre of gasoline.

Warkentin said incentives to use less energy already exist. People have been buying more fuel-efficient vehicles and turning down their thermostats.

“It’s just like a punitive tax in many ways,” Warkentin said.

Wilf Snelgrove, of Eckville, who was in the long line up for gas at Costco Gasoline on Monday afternoon, called the carbon tax a “tax grab by Trudeau.”

“We are pensioners. We don’t have a second income. We can’t afford to drive a second vehicle now. Our truck sits at home,” said Linda Snelgrove.

She said extra costs like the carbon tax add up when the government doesn’t increase pensions, and when people are on a fixed budget. Rebates won’t make up for the impact of the carbon tax.

Ryan Rausch, of Blackfalds, said Canada is already one of the cleanest countries when it comes to carbon emissions. The carbon tax is just another way for government to take money away from Canadians and spend it on whatever government decides.

“They just put a title on it to make it seem justifiable,” said Rausch, who was filling his gas tank at the Costco.

Glen Carritt, organizer of United We Roll convoy, said Premier Jason Kenney and the province’s $30-million war room need to do more to protect Albertans and its oil industry.

“Saudi Arabia gets away with bringing in foreign oil, and they’re not going to be taxed. They’re not going to be assessed with the carbon tax. It just doesn’t seem to be fair across the board,” Carritt said.

“We have to take some kind of hard action. I’m not a separatist, but they have to realize if things don’t change, the separatist movement will continue to grow.”

He said provinces against the carbon tax need to stick together.

“For each province to stand alone, we’re not going to get anywhere. We need to band together with the ones that are feeling the pinch of the carbon tax and realize that it’s just a tax that won’t reduce our carbon emissions one little bit,” Carritt said.

Sylvan Lake-area farmer Mike Ammeter said the carbon tax is another cost farmers will have to bear when it comes to natural gas and propane needed to dry grain.

“Coming off a harvest we had, we had to use a pile energy to get our crop off the field and into the bins. You dry it and you spend all that money and there’s no recourse to recoup that. We do not have the ability to pass on any of these increases,” said Ammeter, director with Alberta Canola Producers Commission.

He said there are some carbon tax exemptions on fuel for farmers, but there’s still a cost to producers.

Ammeter hoped Alberta prevails with its federal carbon tax challenge.

“In the meantime, here it comes,” Ammeter said.

Dean Krejci, chief financial officer with the city, said the municipal budget is prepared for the re-introduction of the carbon tax.

“We had dealt with the carbon tax costs back in 2017 and 2018 budgets when Alberta implemented their own version of carbon tax pricing. When the Alberta government eliminated it, we did not adjust our budget in anticipation of the federal program coming into effect Jan. 1, 2020,” Krejci said.

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