Conservative leader Erin O'Toole holds a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, April 6, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Low-carbon bucks: Conservatives pitch consumer carbon pricing through savings account

Low-carbon bucks: Conservatives pitch consumer carbon pricing through savings account

OTTAWA — Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole is pitching a loyalty-card style of carbon pricing where consumers would see what they pay on fuel stored into an account that can be used for green purchases later.

The so-called “personal low carbon savings account” is a signature policy of the party’s plan to tackle climate change, which was unveiled Thursday.

Making consumers pay a carbon price represents a major shift for the party, which has long campaigned on scrapping the program introduced by the Liberals under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

O’Toole emphasized his plan, presented only at a high level, would indeed rid the country of Trudeau’s program.

He characterized his consumer carbon price as being “a smart, market-based transparent approach to reduce emissions” to similar levels by 2030.

“This is not a tax,” O’Toole said.

Instead of collecting what residents pay through a fuel charge when they gas up and rebating it back to them through cheques after their income taxes are filed — which is how consumer carbon pricing works under the Liberals’ program — the Conservatives said that money would go into a tax-free savings account.

“Not a cent goes to Ottawa,” said O’Toole.

The party said the accounts would be managed by companies similar to how a debit-card system works. The plan says it would work like other loyalty rewards programs, so that over time users would save up money to buy products that help them a “live a greener life,” such as a bike or transit pass.

During a technical briefing, an official said that government would provide oversight to the program, for example, having an allowable list of items that can be purchased using the low-carbon bucks.

The official also acknowledged the program is more targeted to those who drive than those who already bike or walk for their commute.

“I’m sure many Canadians, if they look on their smart phone or in their wallet, have many loyalty and point-systems … this is actually less complex and very easy to administer,” said O’Toole.

“This will allow Canadians to feel in charge and then if they have modest savings in their low-carbon savings account, they may take a few years to upgrade that bike if they’re in a city.”

Liberal Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson slammed the Tory proposal as a “Petro points scheme where the more you burn, the more you earn.”

Greenpeace Canada also criticized the carbon accounts as being more bureaucratic and less equitable.

Stewart Elgie, a law and economics professor at the University of Ottawa, said the carbon-points system would still discourage people from using fossil fuels.

Setting it up to track the carbon purchases of millions of people would be a challenge, he said, and what products they could buy would be important because some items are not as useful at reducing emissions, like a transit pass.

Overall, Elgie said the Conservatives presented a legitimate climate plan, a sentiment also echoed by Clean Energy Canada.

“After years of carbon price wars, the partisan divide over climate policy in Canada just got a lot smaller, and that’s good for our economy and our environment,” said Elgie, also chairman of the Smart Prosperity Institute.

Although the plan paves a way for the country to meet its international emissions targets, Elgie said it fails to mention any commitment to reach net-zero by 2050.

O’Toole said Thursday one of the selling points of his carbon price is that it’s cheaper for Canadians.

The Conservatives say their consumer price would start at $20 per tonne, and rise to no higher than $50 per tonne.

The Liberal plan — applicable only in provinces that do not have their own approved carbon pricing scheme — sets the price at $40 per tonne, rising each year until it reaches $170 per tonne by 2030.

The federal government’s plan could raise prices at the pump by nearly 28 per cent over a decade, officials said in December.

O’Toole had been planning to introduce a consumer carbon price for months, prior to the recent Supreme Court of Canada’s ruling that the Liberals’ federal backstop was constitutional, the party said Thursday.

And while Conservatives would be prepared to increase their carbon price on industrial emitters to $170 per tonne by 2030, it would limit what consumers pay to $50.

To offset the impacts of a lower carbon price, the party would look to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through other measures, like a renewable natural gas requirement and putting more zero-emissions vehicles on the road by requiring 30 per cent of light-duty vehicles — cars, SUVs, pickup trucks — sold to be pollutant-free by 2030.

“The Conservatives are leaning more heavily on renewable fuel regulations than carbon pricing and that will reduce emissions, just at a higher cost,” said Elgie.

“It’s an indirect way of pricing carbon. By requiring cleaner fuels, more renewable fuels, you will raise the cost of fuels and … that will get passed on to everyone,” he said, adding the Conservatives are setting a higher standard for clean fuels than the Liberals.

Other planks include proposing lower North America-wide industrial emissions standards to the Biden administration in the United States, improving fuel regulations to make burning gasoline cleaner and investing $3 billion over 10 years in “natural climate solutions” that focus on forests, farming and wetlands.

A tax credit to incentivize use of carbon-capture technology also factors in.

“While electric vehicles are quickly growing in popularity, the truth is that the world will still be burning oil and gas for decades to come,” states the Conservative plan, dubbed “Secure the Environment.”

Next week, Canada is expected to announce new targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions at a summit with United States President Joe Biden and other world leaders.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 15, 2021

Stephanie Taylor, The Canadian Press

carbon pricing

Just Posted

Ella Stoner, five, is ready to cut off her hair and donate it to A Child’s Voice Foundation. (Photo by Lauren Stoner Photography)
Central Alberta girl to donate her ‘princess hair’ to A Child’s Voice Foundation

A five-year-old girl from Rimbey has never had a haircut before. Now,… Continue reading

Asymptomatic testing will now be available for "priority groups" who are most likely to spread the COVID-19 virus to vulnerable or at-risk populations. File photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS
Alberta adds 1,195 new COVID-19 cases Saturday

Red Deer has dropped to 760 active cases

Lacombe-Ponoka MLA Ron Orr
Central Alberta MLAs comment on UCP members kicked out of caucus

A pair of central Alberta MLAs have commented on the two United… Continue reading

Contributed photo
Johanna Hannaford: Central Alberta designer offers inclusive clothing

By Stephanie Rhodes Local designer Johanna Hannaford’s inclusive clothing creations are smashing… Continue reading

Red life-ring with splash
Started from the bottom: How a family business started and grew in central Alberta

By Carina Moran We started our business in the basement of our… Continue reading

Vancouver Canucks' Zack MacEwen (71), Travis Boyd (72) and Jimmy Vesey (24) celebrate a goal against the Edmonton Oilers during third period NHL action in Edmonton on Saturday, May 15, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Big third period lifts Vancouver Canucks to 4-1 victory over Edmonton Oilers

Canucks 4 Oilers 1 EDMONTON — Matthew Highmore scored twice in the… Continue reading

A vial of the Medicago vaccine sits on a surface. CARe Clinic, located in Red Deer, has been selected to participate in the third phase of vaccine study. (Photo courtesy www.medicago.com)
Canada’s vaccine rollout operation won’t miss a beat with new military leader: expert

DARTMOUTH — The sudden departure of the senior military officer in charge… Continue reading

Quebec Premier Francois Legault speaks during a news conference on the COVID-19 pandemic, Tuesday, September 29, 2020 at the legislature in Quebec City. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jacques Boissinot
Quebec premier argues province has power to amend constitution in letter to Trudeau

MONTREAL — Quebec Premier François Legault has written a letter to Prime… Continue reading

A demonstrator stands in front of riot police officers during a banned protest in support of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, in Paris, Saturday, May, 15, 2021. Marches in support of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip were being held Saturday in a dozen French cities, but the focus was on Paris where riot police countered organizers who said they would defy a ban on the protest, ordered on the grounds that it risked turning violent. (AP Photo/Rafael Yaghobzadeh)
Police fire tear gas on banned Palestinian march in Paris

PARIS (AP) — French riot police fired tear gas and used water… Continue reading

Photo by The Associated Press
NYC Pride parade bans police; Gay officers ‘disheartened’

NEW YORK (AP) — Organizers of New York City’s Pride events said… Continue reading

Welcoming cowboy boots at the historic and colourful Last Chance Saloon in the ghost town of Wayne near Drumheller, Alta., on Thursday, Sept. 19, 2019. The bar and hotel are up for sale. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘It was a going concern’: Remaining bar and hotel in Alberta coal ghost town for sale

WAYNE, Alta. — Built during the First World War, it survived the… Continue reading

A letter from a bottle that washed up in New Brunswick in 2017 is shown in an undated handout photo. A team of researchers from Université du Québec à Rimouski are trying to solve the mystery of whether a letter in a bottle that washed up in New Brunswick in 2017 was indeed from a young victim of Titanic shipwreck or simply a hoax. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, N. Beaudry, UQAR *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Real or hoax? Quebec scholars probe mystery letter allegedly from Titanic passenger

MONTREAL — Researchers from Université du Québec à Rimouski are trying to… Continue reading

Minister of Transport Marc Garneau takes part in a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, Nov. 26, 2019. Advocates, experts and opposition MPs say correspondence showing close communication between the federal Transport Department and the Canadian Transportation Agency regarding passenger refunds throws into question the independence of the CTA, an arm’s-length body. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Emails reveal close communication between government, transport regulator on refunds

OTTAWA — Advocates, experts and opposition MPs say correspondence showing close communication… Continue reading

Most Read