Catherine McKenna flounders on pledge to halt carbon tax at $50 a tonne
Environment Minister Catherine McKenna has apparently shied away from her party’s promise to freeze the carbon tax at $50 a tonne after 2022.
Minister McKenna had originally said that the Liberal plan was to not increase the tax once it hit $50, or 11 cents per litre of gas. Now, a change in tone has occurred, with McKenna stating that if the Liberal Party were to be re-elected, that the government would reassess their stance with provinces before making a decision.
This came after a Parliamentary Budget Office report found that the federal government would have to more-than-double the tax to $102 a tonne if it relied solely on the federal tax to reach the committed amount of greenhouse gas emissions internationally.
When asked if she had the intention to increase the tax by The Globe and Mail, McKenna said that the government had no plan to increase the tax, while adding that the government would have to consult with provinces, territories, and businesses before proceeding.
The carbon tax continues to be a key issue when discussing the coming federal election in October. The tax has been the centrepiece of many discussions, with several conservative provincial governments fighting against the tax in court.
Some Conservatives have lambasted the carbon tax for taking money out of pockets of Canadians, including MP Pierre Poilievre, who criticized McKenna for what he called a “double flip-flop” on the carbon tax.
“It is evidence that the Liberal government has a hidden agenda − they will raises taxes far higher than they have admitted to date,” Poilievre said
McKenna has tried to make as clear as possible, though, that she has no intention to increase the levy.
“In our climate plan, we committed to 2022 with provinces and territories. So there are no plans to increase it—that was our plan to 2022,” Ms. McKenna said to the Globe and Mail last week.
Currently, the carbon tax is applied in Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and New Brunswick, all of which have carbon prices that do not meet federal standards. With the election of the United Conservative Party, Jason Kenney has stood in the way of the tax’s application in Alberta which was imposed by the previous NDP provincial government.
Jason Nixon, the Alberta Environment Minister, accused the Liberals of having a “hidden plan.”
“It’s clear that the Trudeau Liberals can’t be trusted to not hike their carbon tax further if elected to a second term,” he said in an e-mailed statement.
The price of everything in Alberta is expected to increase on Wednesday as the federal carbon tax of $20-per-ton takes effect there Jan. 1 and ramps up to $30 in April 2020; in line with Ontario, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and New Brunswick.
After the United Conservative party routed New Democrat incumbents in April of this year, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney’s new government scrapped the provincial carbon tax as their first order of business.
This set the table for the federal carbon tax to be imposed on the province in line with the Liberal government’s policy to mandate the levy in jurisdictions without their own regime.
This federal levy will increase $10 each year until it hits $50/ton by 2022.
“Effectively what Ottawa has done, despite Albertans saying no twice, (is) you will be treated to a seven cent kick in the pants,” Dan McTeague, president of Canadians for Affordable Energy told Global News.
McTeague estimates that the carbon tax will increase gas prices in Alberta by seven cents per litre–diesel by eight cents–and cascade through the economy causing the cost of goods and services in the province to rise as well.
The provincial government is currently challenging the constitutionality of the federal levy in court and on the eve of the New Year, Alberta’s Justice minister Doug Schweitzer vowed to continue the fight.
“Albertans overwhelmingly rejected carbon taxes at the ballot box,” said Schweitzer in Calgary on Tuesday.
“While some pundits and politicians at home would prefer that we simply roll over and accept Ottawa’s unconstitutional imposition of carbon taxes on Albertans, we are steadfast in our commitment to stand up for our province.”
Similar challenges by Saskatchewan and Ontario in their provincial appeals courts have resulted in split decisions favouring Ottawa–3-2 in Saskatchewan in May; 4-1 in Ontario last June.
Either province have since taken their cases to the Supreme Court of Canada.
Meanwhile, the federal government is saying the carbon tax rebates for Alberta residents with an “average family of four” will be reimbursed $880, and couples or a single parents with one dependent are eligible for up to $666.
McTeague says there is a lot of hidden costs to the carbon tax because the cost of basic goods will go up due to the tax, making the cost of living rise.
Canada could soon see its carbon tax increased to meet its Paris agreement targets.
According to the Toronto Star, Jonathan Wilkinson, Canada’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change, the Trudeau government has not ruled out increases to the nation’s carbon tax. In fact, Wilkinson increases were possible as the government prepares to set “legally binding” five-year plans to reduce emissions.
The government’s decision to increase carbon taxes would not be surprising as reports have found current cuts to fall short of the targets set under the Paris agreement. According to a United Nations’ report published in 2018, the world only has 12 years to limit its “climate change catastrophe.”
Canada’s Ecofiscal Commission published a report in 2019 which found that the carbon tax would have to reach $210 per tonne or there would have to be far more intrusive measures in order to actually meet Paris agreement targets by 2030.
An increase to $210 would be massive in comparison to the current levy which began at $20 per tonne and is set to climb to $50 per tonne by 2022.
While the government has not stated how large increases would be, should they move forward with any increase in rates it will likely enrage those who have seen their everyday costs already increase such as residents of Saskatoon, who have seen higher power rates as a result of their provincial tax.
The Trudeau government has announced their decision to decrease carbon tax rebates in three provinces that have opted to not adopt the federal government’s pricing requirements.
The Liberal government has also decided to add Alberta into that group, as the United Conservative Party had previously repealed carbon tax laws put into place by the former NDP government.
Saskatchewan will be subjected to the largest drop in rebates, as a family of four will qualify for just $809 in rebates in 2020, down nearly $100 from the $903 figure that was once projected by the federal Finance Department.
Ontario’s rebates will also drop, though only by a few bucks—from $451 to $448 for a family of four, while families in Manitoba will see a $13 decrease, receiving $486.
A family of four in Alberta will receive a rebate of $888 in 2020.
Despite the drops, the sitting Liberal government insists that most households will be receiving more money through the rebates than they will be paying into the carbon tax.
The following is a complete list of the rebate amounts for individuals and families by province in 2020, according to government data, as outlined by the Canadian Press.
Single adult or first adult in a couple – $224
Second adult in a couple or first child of a single parent – $112
Each child under 18 – $56
Baseline amount for a family of four – $448
Single adult or first adult in a couple – $243
Second adult in a couple or first child of a single parent – $121
Each child under 18 – $61
Baseline amount for a family of four – $486
Single adult or first adult in a couple – $405
Second adult in a couple or first child of a single parent – $202
Each child under 18 – $101
Baseline amount for a family of four – $809
Single adult or first adult in a couple – $444
Second adult in a couple or first child of a single parent – $222
Each child under 18 – $111
Baseline amount for a family of four – $888
Justin Trudeau has announced his new cabinet for the 43rd Parliament. Despite there being a great deal of speculation as to who would be included in the cabinet, there has only been insignificant change.
One of the more noteworthy changes is that Chrystia Freeland has been moved from her position as Minister of Foreign Affairs to her new position as the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs. She will also serve as the Deputy Prime Minister: a position that was first created by Justin Trudeau’s father, Pierre, and was done away with by Stephen Harper.
This will give Freeland broad power across the government and will only fuel speculation that she is being lined up as Trudeau’s successor. Quebec MP Francois-Philippe Champagne has replaced Freeland in the Foreign Affairs position.
The darling of the right, Catherine McKenna has been moved out of her position as Minister for the Environment. McKenna’s removal will delight the Alberta Premier, Jason Kenney, who has previously demanded that McKenna leave her position for the sake of national unity. The Member of Parliament for North Vancouver, Johnathan Wilkinson, is expected to take over McKenna’s position.
Despite Bill Morneau being heavily criticized for running deficits, and also being attacked for “elitist” campaign posters, he will continue to remain in his position as finance minister.
Due to Trudeau’s woeful results in western Canada, the prime minister was unable to select a member of parliament who was from Alberta or Saskatchewan to serve in his cabinet. Trudeau has also declined to bring in a senator to represent western Canada. As a result of this, the Prairies will be entirely unrepresented in Canada’s executive.
Aside from the names previously mentioned, here is the list of other cabinet transitions, as listed by the CBC:
- Ahmed Hussen, going to families, children and social development.
- Melanie Joly, to economic development and official languages, in charge of regional development agencies.
- Bernadette Jordan, to fisheries and oceans.
- Catherine McKenna, to infrastructure and communities.
- Dominic LeBlanc, now president of the Queen’s privy council, chair of the operations committee.
- Joyce Murray, to digital government.
- Mary Ng, to small business export promotion and international trade.
- Carla Qualtrough, to employment, workforce development and disability inclusion.
- Filomena Tassi, to labour.