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$60 million from federal carbon tax to go to green projects in schools

The federal government is spending a portion of the proceeds of the carbon tax to fund green projects at schools in four provinces.

The funding totals $60 million and will go to elementary and secondary schools in New Brunswick, Ontario, Manitoba and Saskatchewan, Environment Minister Catherine McKenna says in Ottawa.

Those four provinces are subject to the national carbon price because they do not have their own carbon-pricing systems that meet federal standards.

The Liberals previously announced 90% of the revenue from the carbon tax is going back to individuals through rebates on their income taxes.

Ten per cent will go to schools, hospitals, small businesses and other institutions to help develop green projects.

The schools are supposed to use the money for projects that reduce energy-related costs and greenhouse-gas emissions.


New Manitoba plan contains no carbon tax, higher carbon emissions level

The Manitoba government is watering down its target for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and removing any possible carbon tax from the equation.

Sustainable Development Minister Rochelle Squires announced Monday that the Progressive Conservative government is aiming to reduce annual emissions by one megatonne of carbon dioxide equivalent between 2018 and 2022.

That’s less than half the almost 2 1/2-megatonne reduction target the Tories originally announced in 2017.

The main reason for the change is that the province is no longer assuming a carbon tax will be around.

“We’ve removed the carbon-pricing element from our plan and are moving forward with getting real emissions reductions,” Squires told The Canadian Press on Monday.

“(There are) several more initiatives to come that will help us transition to a low-carbon future without imposing a tax on Manitobans.”

Opposition NDP Leader Wab Kinew said the government is moving in the wrong direction.

“Reducing the emissions targets will not protect the environment in the way that we need to for the next generation,” Kinew said.

“And it seems like the government, in this announcement, is also agreeing that putting a price on pollution is an effective way to reduce emissions.”

The Tory government proposed a flat $25 per tonne carbon tax in its 2017 plan _ an increase that works out to just over five cents a litre on gasoline.

The federal government said that was not high enough and insisted the province match the federal level that starts at $20 a tonne and is to rise to $50 by 2022.

Manitoba backed off its tax plan entirely last year, so Ottawa imposed its own levy in April. It has also done so in Saskatchewan, Ontario and New Brunswick, which also refused to meet the federal demand.

The future of the federal tax is in question. Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer has promised to scrap it if his party is elected this fall. Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Ontario are fighting the tax in court.

Saskatchewan’s Court of Appeal ruled in a split decision last month that the tax is constitutional. The province is appealing that ruling to the Supreme Court of Canada.

Squires said the Manitoba government is establishing firm, achievable targets and will meet them through initiatives such as a plan she announced Monday to subsidize the trucking industry for purchases of energy-efficient equipment.

The previous NDP government set emissions targets and failed to reach them _ a fact highlighted by the province’s auditor general in 2017.

Kinew has promised to make the province carbon-neutral by 2050 if he is elected premier. He has also said he would impose a price on carbon which, like the federal one, would be at least partially offset by rebates.

He is not yet prepared to say what that price would be.

“We will have to look at the federal landscape. We want to get a good deal for Manitobans that balances the environment but also keeping life affordable for people,” Kinew said.


Saskatchewan takes federal carbon tax fight to Supreme Court of Canada

The Saskatchewan government has filed notice that it is taking its challenge of the federal carbon tax to the Supreme Court of Canada.

Justice Minister Don Morgan says the province will ask the high court to rule on whether the tax is constitutional and whether Ottawa has the jurisdiction to impose it.

Saskatchewan’s Court of Appeal ruled in a split decision earlier this month that the tax is constitutional.

It also said that establishing minimum national standards for a price on greenhouse gas emissions falls under federal jurisdiction.

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe, who has said the tax hurts his province economically, promised there would be an appeal.

Morgan said the province has two months to file a factum to the Supreme Court.

“Our government will continue to stand up for Saskatchewan people against what we believe is an unconstitutional tax on their families, communities, and businesses,” Morgan said Friday in Saskatoon.

He added that if the Liberals lose the federal election in October, there may be no federal tax left to fight. The Conservatives have promised to scrap the tax.

“The Supreme Court could say it’s moot, it’s not worth hearing because the government has changed the law,” said Morgan. “Or they could say, ‘No, this is a matter of import. We want to create a precedent.’”

A government spokesperson said in an email that the province does not have to ask for a leave to appeal in this case.

The federal tax has been imposed on provinces that have not implemented their own carbon levies: Ontario, New Brunswick, Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

Ontario and Manitoba are also fighting the federal tax in court and Alberta has said it will join the legal battle.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney’s government officially killed the province’s carbon tax on Thursday. Federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna said Ottawa’s tax would be imposed on the province as soon as possible.

Kenney said Friday that Alberta has not yet received a formal notice from the federal government on its tax.

“If and when we receive that, I will instruct our lawyers to proceed with filing a judicial reference to the Alberta Court of Appeal.”


C-stores to get help on energy efficiency upgrades from Federal carbon tax money 

Small businesses in the four provinces with a national carbon price will share $1.4 billion over the next four years to help them reduce their energy use but business-owners say they are getting the short end of the rebate stick.

Environment Minister Catherine McKenna unveiled two carbon-tax rebate programs for small business Thursday morning in Ottawa, nearly two months after the new carbon price began being applied in Ontario, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and New Brunswick.

“It took a while, to be honest, to get the details right,” McKenna said.

She said she wanted to make sure the program will be workable and easy for businesses to use, promising quick turnaround time for a direct rebate program to offset up to half the costs for small businesses to buy more energy efficient equipment or appliances.

It’s expected the rebates will be worth $44 million this year. The maximum rebate for any individual business will be $20,000.

More details on what equipment or retrofits will be eligible for what level of rebate won’t be available until regulations are delivered after the Liberal government’s budget-implementation bill passes in Parliament. McKenna said the idea is to include things like refrigerators, dishwashers and anti-idling devices for vehicles to help everyone from farmers to convenience-store owners and restaurateurs.

“We wanted very practical things that will help small businesses save money,” she said.

A separate program will give rebates for retrofits that make their businesses use less energy. That program, which is to cost about $106 million this year, will be for projects of up to $1 million.

The funds come from the revenues Canada is collecting from the $20-a-tonne carbon price imposed April 1 on the provinces that don’t currently have carbon-pricing systems of their own. Legislation requires all the revenues from the carbon price to be returned to individuals and businesses in provinces where they were collected.

Dan Kelly, the president of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, said the rebate program is “underwhelming” and doesn’t come close to helping small enterprises cope with the added costs of the carbon price.

“This is basically an income transfer from business to consumers,” said Kelly.

With the rebate program capped at $44 million and the retrofits budget sitting at $106 million, Kelly also wondered what the government is going to do if more businesses apply for the programs than there is money to compensate.

He also says the government is treating businesses like an afterthought.

“It is deeply, deeply unfair,” he said.

Most of the carbon-tax revenues—90%—are going to individuals through income-tax rebates. Small and medium-sized businesses are sharing seven per cent of the revenues, while three per cent are going to municipalities, hospitals, schools, universities and Indigenous communities. A program for that three-per-cent group hasn’t been announced yet.

The Liberals expect most businesses to be able to pass on their carbon costs to consumers through higher prices for goods and services, which is why the majority of the rebates are going to individuals.

Kelly said a survey of CFIB members showed more than 80% believed they wouldn’t be able to pass on more than one-quarter of the costs and half didn’t think they would be able to raise prices at all.

The Canadian Chamber of Commerce said it had wanted a direct rebate program like the tax rebates given to individuals, so every small business would get something. The program as it stands requires businesses to spend money to get anything.

McKenna said the goal is to provide further incentives to get business to cut emissions by reducing their energy consumption.

Over the next four years, Ottawa anticipates small and medium-sized businesses will be eligible for $1.4 billion in rebates for energy-efficiency upgrades through the two streams.

More than half a million small businesses in Canada are affected by the national carbon price in the four covered provinces.


Scheer’s climate plan will look at how Canada can cut emissions elsewhere

Conservative leader Andrew Scheer says his party’s climate plan will aim to hit Canada’s promised greenhouse-gas emissions targets but the party will not say whether that means all of the emissions cuts it wants to count will actually happen here.

Scheer intends to release his climate plan next month and he said Wednesday it will be “based” on Canada’s targets under the Paris climate-change accord. But he says Canada has “an obligation” not just to reduce our own emissions of climate-changing gases but also to help other countries cut theirs.

“We don’t do the world a favour if we see marginal reductions of emissions here in Canada and massive expansions of emissions in other countries because investments and jobs get displaced to those types of jurisdictions,” Scheer said last week.

Under the Paris Agreement, each country in the world has to commit to reducing its own greenhouse-gas emissions by a specific amount.

However, the accord allows for what are called “co-operative mechanisms,” which means as long as two countries agree, emissions reductions in one country can be counted toward meeting the targets of another country. That could happen if, for instance, Canada signed an agreement with another country to finance a new solar farm to replace a coal-fired electricity plant, in exchange for Canada’s getting credit for some or all of the emissions reductions that result.

A Conservative spokeswoman said Canadians will have to wait for the release of the party’s climate plan in June for any details about how emissions reductions in other countries will be incorporated into the Tory vision.

Scheer also intends to try to amend a Liberal motion in the House of Commons declaring a climate-change emergency to include a recognition of “Canada’s obligations in the global context.”

The motion is not a binding law but a broad declaration of MPs’ collective will.

The Liberal motion declares climate change a national emergency that means Canada must first meet the Paris targets for emissions cuts and then exceed them to keep the world from getting catastrophically hot. Environment Minister Catherine McKenna brought the motion in part to force the Conservatives to either commit to the Paris Agreement or vote against it.

A competing NDP motion declaring a climate-change emergency, which was debated Wednesday, is a non-starter for both the Conservatives and Liberals because of its additional calls for the government to walk away from the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion and fossil- fuel subsidies immediately. McKenna said some subsidies are helping keep life affordable, such as those keeping diesel prices down to reduce electricity costs in Canada’s North.

Scheer said Conservative support for the Liberal motion depends on whether the Liberals accept his planned amendments, such as an acknowledgment that the Liberals’ existing climate policies are failing to meet the Paris targets. He said Conservatives believe climate change is a real and urgent problem. But he called out the government for wasting time in the House of Commons with a motion he says is a clear attempt to distract from Liberal scandals.

He called Trudeau a “high-carbon hypocrite” who churns out emissions flying around the world on a private plane while imposing carbon taxes on regular Canadians, which Scheer says will have no impact on Canada’s emissions.

The Liberals last year produced an analysis suggesting at $50 per tonne of carbon dioxide, a national carbon price would reduce emissions between 80 million and 90 million tonnes a year. That is almost half of what Canada has to cut from annual emissions to reach its Paris targets. The country’s total emissions in 2017 were 716 million tonnes, according to the federal government.

Catherine Abreu, executive director of the Climate Action Network Canada, said there are no rules yet for how cooperative mechanisms would work. She also said that they were introduced with the idea that countries such as Canada could achieve more ambitious targets down the road by helping other countries, not use the mechanisms to meet existing targets.

She said she won’t comment on the Conservative plan until she sees it but that any party that tries to meet Paris targets without making a serious dent in Canada’s own emissions cannot be taken seriously on climate change.

“I am an only child but if I had a brother, I couldn’t tell him to clean up his room if I didn’t clean up my own,” she said.

Canada is among the top 10 biggest emitters globally, and because of the oil industry and our relatively small population, Canada has the highest per-capita emissions, she said.


Alberta premier Jason Kenney says provincial carbon tax will die May 30

Premier Jason Kenney says Alberta’s carbon tax has about two weeks to live.

Kenney says the Carbon Tax Repeal Act is to be introduced during next week’s legislature sitting and will have a proviso to end the tax by the end of the month.

“By May 30th there will no longer be an Alberta carbon tax,” Kenney said Monday at a news conference outlining some of the legislation coming from his new United Conservative government.

An end to the tax brought in by the former NDP government will put an estimated $1.4 billion a year back in the pockets of taxpayers, he said.

The levy is charged on home heating using fossil fuels and on gasoline at the pumps.

Ending the tax would open the door to the federal government imposing its tax, as it has done with four other provinces that wouldn’t bring in their own carbonpricing: Ontario, New Brunswick, Manitoba and Saskatchewan.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who was in Edmonton last Friday, wouldn’t say if his government would immediately charge the federal tax if Alberta ditched its own, but stressed that no province will be exempt.

Opposition Leader Rachel Notley said the repeal “sets the stage for a made-in-Ottawa, a made-by-Justin-Trudeau carbon plan to be imposed on Albertans.

“I don’t think it’s wise,” the NDP leader said. “And we will certainly make the case vigorously that it’s not wise.”

Getting rid of the carbon tax was a central policy pillar in Kenney’s successful campaign last month to win the election. He defeated Notley’s party, achieving a strong majority.

Kenney ridiculed the NDP carbon fee as a thinly veiled tax grab that penalizes consumers while having no effect on greenhouse gas emissions. He also held the levy up as a symbol of what he has said was an interventionist NDP government that was stifling economic recovery by imposing additional fees and red tape.

On the campaign trail, Kenney promised to file an immediate court challenge on the constitutionality of the federal carbon tax if he won the election.

He promised to file the court papers by April 30; however, his cabinet was not sworn in until that day. In the two weeks since, no challenge has been filed.

Kenney said Monday the lawsuit has been delayed and may not be filed at all.

He said his government wants to review court decisions in Saskatchewan and Ontario before it decides if it will challenge the federal tax in court.

The Saskatchewan Court of Appeal recently ruled in a split decision that the federal tax imposed on provinces without a carbon price of their own is constitutional.

The Ontario government is waiting for a decision on its court challenge.

“The right thing for us to do is wait and see what the Ontario Appeal court decides,” said Kenney.

“We can take both of those decisions into account as to whether or not to launch our own separate challenge or whether just to support (the) Saskatchewan and Ontario governments in what will be inevitable appeals to the Supreme Court.”

Kenney’s platform promised he would create jobs and move Alberta’s oil- and gas-based economy forward by reducing regulations and cutting taxes.

On Monday he said a bill to cut corporate income tax by one-third will also be rolled out next week.

It is likely to follow Kenney’s plan to reduce the 12 per cent corporate tax by one percentage point on July 1, and then cut it again by one point in the first days of 2020, 2021 and 2022, to ultimately bring it to eight per cent.

His government also aims to bring in a bill to reduce the current $15 an hour minimum wage for workers 17 and younger.


Federal carbon tax ruled constitutional; Ottawa pressures premiers to get on board

The federal government used a favourable court decision on its carbon tax Friday to put pressure on premiers who don’t like it to stop fighting it.

The Saskatchewan Court of Appeal ruled in a split decision that the tax imposed on provinces without a carbon price of their own is constitutional.

“Today’s decision is a win for Canadians and for future generations,” Environment Minister Catherine McKenna said in Ottawa. “This decision confirms that putting a price on carbon pollution … is an effective and essential part of any serious response to the global challenge of climate change,” she said.

“It is time for Conservative politicians to stop the partisan games and join in on serious and effective climate action.”

McKenna straight out challenged new Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, Ontario’s Doug Ford, Saskatchewan’s Scott Moe and federal Opposition Leader Andrew Scheer: “Will you stop blocking climate action and join us in fighting climate change?”

Saskatchewan’s reply was no.

“Though I am disappointed by today’s ruling, our fight will continue on behalf of Saskatchewan people _ who oppose the ineffective, job-killing Trudeau carbon tax. It was a 3-2 split decision and we look to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada,” Moe said.

“No one in this nation should confuse climate action with the carbon tax,” he said. “We will continue to use each and every tool in our toolbox to block … Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s ineffective carbon tax … while we in this province continue with our fight against climate change.”

The Saskatchewan Party government had asked the court for its opinion on the levy that came into effect April 1 in provinces without a carbon price of their own – Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and New Brunswick.

Alberta has a carbon tax brought in by the former NDP government, but Kenney has promised to move quickly to dump it and fight any effort by Ottawa to impose its own.

“We disagree with the narrow ruling by the majority that the federal government has the power to ensure a provincial minimum price on carbon, and will be joining Saskatchewan in their appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada,” Kenney said in a statement.

In a 155-page decision on the reference case, Chief Justice Robert Richards wrote that establishing minimum national standards for a price on greenhouse gas emissions does fall under federal jurisdiction.

He said Ottawa has the power to impose its carbon tax under a section of the Constitution that states Parliament can pass laws in the name of peace, order and good government.

Two of the five Appeal Court justices suggested the federal government’s actions are not a valid use of that section of the Constitution.

McKenna called climate change an issue of national concern.

“Pollution doesn’t know any borders. And we need to be able to act as a country,” she said. “We are witnessing Canadians across the country hurting from the impacts of climate change.”

Scheer said in a statement that the Liberal carbon tax “isn’t a plan to lower emissions. It’s just another cash grab which is hurting already overtaxed Canadians.”

Saskatchewan told a hearing before the Appeal Court that the question wasn’t one of climate change. It argued the federal tax is unconstitutional because it’s not applied evenly across the country and oversteps into provincial jurisdiction.

Richards wrote that there is no constitutional requirement that laws enacted by Parliament must apply uniformly from coast to coast to coast.

He also said the environment “is not a legislative subject matter that has been assigned to either Parliament or the provincial legislatures under the Constitution Act.”

Federal government lawyers argued that Ottawa has the power to put a price on pollution, because greenhouse gas emissions are a national concern.

The two dissenting judges said it is “constitutionally repugnant” for Ottawa to exercise its power to control measures taken by provinces on emissions.

“The notion that national benchmarks are required merely speaks of a federal dissatisfaction with provincial policy and a desire to impose federal policies on those provinces,” they wrote.

“It is a dispute about what the right numbers are and who gets to decide what they are.”

Ontario is also challenging the federal tax and is waiting for a decision after arguing its case in court last month.

Ford, speaking in Bracebridge, Ont., after meeting with officials about flooding, said Friday’s decision is just the beginning.

“This series isn’t over yet. That’s Game 1. We still have other games to play,” he said. “If we can’t beat them in the courts, we’re going to beat them at the ballot box in (the) October (federal election).”

New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs promised to join what he said will “almost certainly” be an appeal to the Supreme Court for its opinion.

“Our legal efforts do not mean that New Brunswick will stop its efforts on important climate change initiatives. New Brunswick remains committed to doing its part to reduce carbon emissions.”

Manitoba filed papers in Federal Court recently for its own challenge.

Justice Minister Cliff Cullen said Manitoba’s case is different because the province had planned its own, lower carbon tax, but it was rejected by Ottawa.

“We have filed for a judicial review, not just on constitutional grounds, but also on the grounds that Canada acted unfairly by rejecting our plan.” he said.

The federal government’s carbon price starts at a minimum of $20 a tonne and is to rise $10 each year until 2022.


Ontario Chamber of Commerce asks government to abandon gas pump sticker plan

Forcing gas station operators to display Ontario government stickers on the federal carbon tax violates their rights and freedoms, the province’s chamber of commerce said April 25, as it asked the Progressive Conservatives to reverse their decision.

OCC president Rocco Rossi

OCC president Rocco Rossi

In a letter to the Energy Minister Greg Rickford, chamber president Rocco Rossi said the group’s members are concerned about the “political nature” of the decals, which were unveiled earlier this month as part of the Tory government’s fight against the federal levy.

“Our members—including gas station operators—have expressed concerns regarding the political nature of the stickers, viewing them as a violation of their rights and freedoms,” Rossi said.

Ontario has introduced legislation that requires stickers—in English and French—to be put on gas pumps showing that the tax has added 4.4 cents a litre to the price of gasoline and that will rise to 11 cents per litre by 2022.

The government said earlier this month the stickers will cost taxpayers approximately $5,000 to print 25,000 decals but that does not cover the cost to distribute them to the province’s 3,200 gas stations.

Gas station operators who don’t display the government-mandated stickers could be subject to fines of up to $10,000 per day.

Rossi called on the government to scrap the section in the legislation, which mandates the stickers.

“This initiative is an example of unnecessary red tape: it is both a new administrative burden and an increased cost to business thanks to the punitive and outsized fines for non-compliance,” he said in the letter.

Rickford defended the stickers, saying in a statement that the federal carbon tax will have a negative impact on every one in the province.

“Ontario families have the right to know exactly what the Trudeau carbon tax costs them every time they fill up at the pump,” he said in a statement. “The carbon tax will kill jobs and raise the price of nearly everything across our province, hurting every member of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce.”

The letter is a rare example of the chamber publicly disagreeing with the Ford government on policy since it came to office last year. Rossi points out that the chamber has supported the Tories on a number of pieces of legislation and the government’s ongoing work to reduce Ontario’s deficit and debt.

The carbon tax is expected cost to a typical household $258 this year and $648 by 2022. Residents of provinces with the tax will be getting rebates on their income tax returns that start at $128 annually and increase for people with spouses or dependents at home. The federal government says a family of four in Ontario would get $307 this year.

Ontario is one of four provinces, including Manitoba, Saskatchewan and New Brunswick, where Ottawa imposed the levy because they opted not to impose their own pricing schemes on carbon emissions.


Manitoba files separate court action over federal carbon tax, seeks review

The Manitoba government has filed its own court challenge of the federal government’s carbon tax, following similar moves by Ontario and Saskatchewan.

In documents filed in Federal Court on Wednesday, the Manitoba government seeks a judicial review to quash the federal tax on the grounds it exceeds Ottawa’s constitutional authority.

“The (federal carbon-tax law) falls outside of Parliament’s jurisdiction,” says the notice of application.

Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Ontario and New Brunswick (all provinces lead by conservative governments) have refused federal Liberal demands to enact their own carbon levies. That prompted Ottawa to impose its own tax in those provinces, which started April 1 at $20 per tonne and will rise to $50 per tonne by 2022.

“The conduct by the federal government is unfair to Manitobans. It threatens jobs and economic growth throughout our province,” Manitoba Justice Minister Cliff Cullen said in a statement April 24.

A date has not been set for the hearing.

Decisions are already pending in the court challenges by Ontario and Saskatchewan, but Manitoba says its case has some unique characteristics.

Unlike the other holdout provinces, Manitoba planned to enact a carbon tax of its own – a price of $25 per tonne that would not rise. Premier Brian Pallister said the flat tax would recognize the billions of dollars Manitoba has already invested in clean hydroelectric developments.

When the federal government said the Manitoba proposal was not enough, Pallister withdrew the lower provincial tax and promised to fight the higher federal one.

Manitoba argues that Ottawa had no right to rebuff the province’s initial plan to charge a lower carbon tax that might have been equally effective in reducing emissions. The document also alleges the federal government has made side deals with some provinces that are more lenient than what has been forced on Manitoba and the other holdouts.

Two years ago, the Manitoba government obtained a legal opinion from constitutional expert Bryan Schwartz. Schwartz said the federal government generally has the right to impose a carbon tax, but might be rebuffed if a province developed its own plan that would be equally effective in reducing emissions.

Caroline Theriault, a spokeswoman for the Minister of Environment and Climate Change Canada, said carbon pollution should not be a partisan issue.

“Premier Pallister flip-flopped, choosing to tear up his own climate plan,” she said in an email.

“If some Conservative politicians choose to not do what’s right for our climate and our kids, we will. Just like Andrew Scheer, Brian Pallister is taking direction from Doug Ford and fighting climate action instead of fighting climate change. His decision comes weeks after scientists made it clear Canada is warming at double the global rate. The time to act is now.”

Theriault said the federal plan is a practical and affordable way to cut pollution.

She noted that under the plan a family of four in Manitoba will receive $339 through the Climate Action Incentive this year.

“Instead of wasting taxpayer dollars in court fighting climate action, we would have hoped to see the premier fight climate change,” she said.

In the Saskatchewan court case, federal lawyers argued in February that Ottawa has the authority to enact a backstop carbon tax because climate change and greenhouse gas emissions are a matter of a national concern.