Subscribe to Canada Free Press for FREE

Practically, losing the bet could cost Manitobans more than $200 million in higher-than-required carbon taxes that don't result in any savings from Ottawa

Pallister makes a bad carbon tax bet


By -- Todd MacKay – CTF Prairie Director —— Bio and Archives--November 6, 2017

Comments | Print Friendly | Subscribe | Email Us

This column originally ran in the Winnipeg Sun and is now free to reprint.

Premier Brian Pallister is betting his carbon tax, that’s more than twice as high as Ottawa’s initial requirement, will mean the province can get away with paying a lower carbon tax later.

Losing that bet could cost Manitobans millions.

Premier Pallister wants to impose a $25 per tonne carbon tax next year. That translates to a 5 cent per litre tax on gasoline. It’ll cost taxpayers $260 million annually. The premier plans to keep the carbon tax at $25 per tonne for five years.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wants provinces to impose a carbon tax of $10 per tonne next year and steadily increase it to $50 per tonne over five years.

Even though Premier Pallister is planning to charge a carbon tax that’s initially more than twice as high as the federal requirement, the prime minister is not pleased.

“If any province doesn’t move forward in an appropriate way, the federal government will ensure that the equivalent price on carbon is applied,” said Prime Minister Trudeau when asked about the premier’s plan.

Clearly, Ottawa has no intention of letting Manitoba off the hook for higher carbon taxes down the road just because the province is overcharging in the short term.

So, what’s the plan now that partially acquiescing to Prime Minister Trudeau hasn’t worked?

“I’d prefer that in the court of public opinion it will be made clear to Ottawa that this is a better plan for Manitobans,” said the premier.

It’s standard procedure for premiers to harness the will of the people in fights with the feds. Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall is marshalling overwhelming public support as he opposes a carbon tax outright. But Premier Pallister’s rallying cry is a little less motivational.

Maybe hordes of angry taxpayers will descend upon the Legislature for a we-want-a-higher-carbon-tax-now-so-the-carbon-tax-won’t-be-quite-as-high-later rally. Maybe. But there should be a plan B.

Premier Pallister paid $40,000 for an independent legal opinion to guide the province in a potential carbon tax dispute with Ottawa.

“Suppose Manitoba adopted its own ‘Made-in-Manitoba’ overall GHG reduction plan, which would reduce GHG emissions just as effectively as the approved federal measures,” wrote University of Manitoba law professor Bryan Schwartz, while noting that the strategy is untested. “Manitoba could then argue the federal government was arbitrarily denying its authority to craft its own legislative measures in response to the issue of GHG emissions.”

There’s a problem. Premier Pallister’s 60-page plan doesn’t show how his carbon tax would reduce emissions. Reporters asked him about that.

“Well there’s very little data in respect of this other than hypothetical commentary anyway,” said Premier Pallister.

Not only is the province unsure how much a carbon tax would reduce emissions, it’s not even sure how to measure results. The provincial plan refers to a number of “potential indicators” such as: gas and diesel sales; the ratio of GDP to litres of fuel consumed; the ratio of gas to electric vehicles purchased; and/or, “economic competitiveness impacts by sector such as exports.”

So, to win a court battle, the premier would have to use an untested strategy based on hypothetical data from undetermined indicators.

Continued below...

There’s a chance Premier Pallister will lose this bet.

Practically, losing the bet could cost Manitobans more than $200 million in higher-than-required carbon taxes that don’t result in any savings from Ottawa.

Politically, losing the bet will bad. In 2018 and 2019 Manitobans will get hit with a carbon tax that’s significantly higher than neighbouring provinces. Then, if the premier is unable to sway the prime minister with public opinion or thwart in him court, Manitobans will get hit with a carbon tax that rises to $30 per tonne just as voters head to the polls in 2020.

Premier Pallister needs to start again. He needs to ask what Manitobans want rather than acquiescing to Ottawa. He needs to hold a referendum and respect Manitobans’ right to decide whether they want a carbon tax.

Todd MacKay is the Prairie Director for the Canadian Taxpayers Federation



Canadian Taxpayers Federation -- Todd MacKay – CTF Prairie Director -- Bio and Archives | Comments

Canadian Taxpayers Federation

Commenting Policy

Please adhere to our commenting policy to avoid being banned. As a privately owned website, we reserve the right to remove any comment and ban any user at any time.

Comments that contain spam, advertising, vulgarity, threats of violence, racism, anti-Semitism, or personal or abusive attacks on other users may be removed and result in a ban.
-- Follow these instructions on registering: