If the federal carbon tax stays in its current form, there will be a clear impact on central Alberta families and businesses.
That was the message from both Red Deer-Mountainview federal conservative MP Earl Dreeshen and the Red Deer and District Chamber of Commerce in the wake of the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision Thursday to uphold the tax.
“If you need to run your equipment, you need to heat your shop or your house or restaurant or warehouse, you just have to. You have to pay transportation costs – all these things. The thing with the carbon tax, it gets you pretty much everywhere,” said Reg Warkentin, policy and government affairs manager with the Red Deer and District Chamber of Commerce.
In a 6-3 decision Thursday, the highest court in the country ruled that climate change is a critical threat to the globe and that Canada can’t fight it if each province determines its own path on greenhouse gas emissions.
Dreeshen said the decision is purely political theatre and believes there are other ways to fight back against climate change.
“It was a political decision. In the same way in which it was presented, it can be undone and that’s basically what we are proposing. There are better ways for us to be able to reduce the amount of carbon that we have,” Dreeshen said.
“Simply saying it’s a tax on pollution is a misnomer. We have a lot of other aspects in Canada as far as our environment is concerned.
“What we need to do on the net-zero side of things, we’re seeing that and we’ve been seeing that for a decade. We should be out selling that technology, that’s the part we can sell to the rest of the world.”
The federal carbon levy currently sits at $30 a tonne, heading up to $40 a tonne on April 1 and then $50 a tonne by 2022, delivering at that time a projected $2.2 billion from Albertans.
About 90 per cent of that levy goes back to Albertans in rebates.
“Without a doubt, when the tax goes up from $30 to $40, it’s going to be a significant cost increase for families and small businesses,” Warkentin said.
“Certainly from that perspective, with the weakened state of our economy as we try to recover from Covid, any increase to cost is not what we want to see happening.”
Dreeshan said that Alberta is a leader in carbon capture technology and the federal government is more or less ignoring those contributions. When it comes to trade in the province, businesses are being hit hard on the bottom line with the carbon tax in its current form.
“They seem to forget that it’s not just fuel that the carbon tax is on. It’s anything that produces a product for agriculture. That takes out of the farmer’s bottom line,” he said.
“There is no carbon tax in the U.S., so we have that issue that we need to contend with.
“Then you start looking at the rest of the places in the world that we do business in. Whatever it is that you’re trying to sell to other markets, other countries have an advantage.”
Premier Jason Kenney vowed to keep fighting for Albertan jobs and the economy after the court ruling came Thursday. Friday, Kenney noted his government was still considering its options about how to proceed, including a consultation with Albertans and potentially introducing Alberta’s own carbon plan.
When he was elected in 2019, Kenney scrapped the NDP’s carbon tax plan and vowed to challenge the federal government’s carbon tax.
Alberta government officials indicated Friday that so far, just over $1 million has been spent on the carbon tax challenges, including a win in the Alberta Court of Appeals and in the recent loss at the Supreme Court level. They expect a modest increase in the cost of the challenges in 2021.
“The costs associated with the legal challenge are a pittance compared to what is being taken from Albertans by the Ottawa Liberals,” read part of an email statement from the premier’s office.