By Dean Bennett
THE CANADIAN PRESS
EDMONTON — Premier Rachel Notley’s New Democrats have used their majority to pass the first part of Alberta’s landmark climate-change plan in the legislature.
Notley says she is extremely proud and adds that taking action on climate change was long overdue.
The legislation gives the province the power to levy a carbon tax on home and business heating bills and on gasoline at the pumps.
It was, at times, a bitter fight in the house.
Politicians stayed up until almost dawn today debating amendments to the proposal.
Opposition members wanted, among other things, more clarity on where revenues from the tax will be spent.
Notley’s NDP government used its majority to reject all proposed changes except for one. It accepted a Progressive Conservative amendment to issue receipts when items are confiscated under the pending act.
House leader Brian Mason has said the bill was carefully crafted and scrutinized beforehand and did not require amendments.
Debate ended at 4:45 a.m. and the government did not have to invoke its power to cut off debate to keep the bill moving.
Passage of the bill also marks the end of the spring sitting of the legislature.
The carbon levy is one element of a multipronged climate-change strategy to reduce Alberta’s carbon footprint and give it more moral high ground when it makes pitches to other jurisdictions for greater resource infrastructure such as pipelines.
The government is also working to cap oilsands emissions and phase out coal-fired electricity by 2030.
The carbon levy is to take effect Jan. 1. Gasoline at the pumps will rise by 4.49 cents a litre and diesel will go up 5.35 cents a litre.
The government estimates higher heating and gasoline costs will cost the average family an extra $443 annually next year. The figure is expected to rise in 2018. Opposition politicians say the government is lowballing that figure and the cost to families will be at least double that.
The government estimates that two-thirds of Albertans — those in middle- and low-income brackets — will receive a partial or full rebate.
The government says that ensures lower-income Albertans will not be penalized by the tax, but will have an incentive to go green because they get to keep the rebate money regardless. Opponents have derided the plan as a thinly veiled wealth transfer.
Anyone earning more than $51,250 a year will not be eligible for a rebate.