New Brunswick still considering a price on carbon, including a gas tax hike, says Gallant
Like all New Brunswickers, I am eager to see the premier’s plan for making the transition away from fossil fuels to renewable energy and clean technology – David Coon
Premier Brian Gallant says he is still considering a price on carbon to strengthen New Brunswick’s efforts in tackling climate. And he’s now listing a hike in the gas tax among an “array” of carbon pricing mechanisms the province could choose in efforts to strengthen its role in a pan-Canadian climate change plan.
Gallant made the comments in a conference call on Friday before boarding a plane back to New Brunswick after spending the last two days alongside Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and provincial leaders in Vancouver in discussion on a national climate strategy.
The premier has previously said that his government is considering putting a price on carbon, among other ideas, as a way to address greenhouse gas emissions. He reaffirmed that idea on Friday.
“Yes, we’ll still consider it,” Gallant said. “We’re going to strengthen the climate change action plan which means we are considering an array of options and yes, putting a price on carbon would be one of the things we are considering. “But I want to be clear, we’re going to consult with the industry, with the business the community, and with New Brunswickers to see what our further enhancements should look like and if that should include a price on carbon.”
An official statement from the meeting reads that the first ministers have agreed to transition to a low carbon economy with measures including “carbon pricing mechanisms, adapted to each province’s and territory’s specific circumstances.”
Asked what are other “mechanisms” the government could consider outside of a carbon tax or a cap-and-trade system, Gallant suggested an increase in the gas tax.
“There are many ways we can approach this, for example, we can raise the taxes on gas,” Gallant said in French. “That would be a form of carbon tax. So we’ll continue to look at this and we’ll continue to consult with New Brunswickers, industry and others who want to work on climate change.”
The federal government has been quietly insisting for weeks that a national carbon price, as promised in the Liberal election platform, will be imposed from above if provinces are unable to agree. But several provinces have since questioned the idea altogether.
Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall has led the charge against a federally imposed carbon tax, warning of its impact on the economy.
Yukon Premier Darrell Pasloski is also against imposing any additional costs on fossil fuel consumers in Canada’s North, as are his counterparts in the Northwest Territories and Nunavut.
Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil said on Thursday that after spending heavily on hydro-electric transmission, Atlantic Canada has effectively built a carbon price into electricity rates that are the highest in Canada.
“I think Stephen is right,” Gallant said on Friday. “I think all the provinces across the country have done many things to combat climate change already. “In terms of what is happening on the east coast, I can’t speak to Nova Scotia’s policies, but I can speak to New Brunswick’s. You look at NB Power and they have done a great job over the years of ensuring that renewables is a big part of their portfolio.”
He added: “It’s important for New Brunswick’s plan to combat climate change, but it also comes with a cost. Renewables can at times be more expensive than other types of power that are generated from other sources.”
“So you (can) make the argument, obviously, that we are (adding a) price to the ratepayers’ system to ensure that there are renewables.”
But Gallant said that doesn’t mean New Brunswick has done its part. “We have to do more,” he said.
Federal working groups will be set up to assess climate change policy options and another first ministers meeting will be held in the fall where the goal will be to finalize a national strategy.
Progressive Conservative MLA Brian Macdonald said on Friday that the provincial shouldn’t move ahead with a carbon tax.
“Absolutely not,” Macdonald said. “The government already has enough of our money, they have already raised every tax and fee across the province, and this carbon tax that is proposed will be another job killer.”
Green party Leader David Coon asked on Friday for Premier Brian Gallant to “publicly share the broad range of measures he has in mind to drive the transition to a low carbon economy in New Brunswick.”
“Like all New Brunswickers, I am eager to see the premier’s plan for making the transition away from fossil fuels to renewable energy and clean technology,” Coon said.
The Green leader wants Gallant to place a fee on carbon that enters the province – specifically NB Power when it imports coal, Irving Oil when it imports oil, and on Enbridge when it imports natural gas.
He estimates the move would generate $164 million per year, revenues the province should then use to fund new green infrastructure such as public transportation, energy efficiency and renewable energy investments.
A joint press release issued by the prime minister and the premiers at the conclusion of the Vancouver meetings stated that the first ministers “agreed on the importance and urgency of moving Canada’s resources to market in responsible, timely, predictable and sustainable ways that Canadians trust.”
Gallant said that was important in the context of Energy East and other future energy projects.
“I was very pleased to see all premiers and the prime minister – which obviously includes the premier of Quebec – sign off on the declaration (which includes a statement on moving resources to market),” Gallant said. “I think it is a clear indication that we understand how important developing our natural resources and energy projects responsibly is for the Canadian economy.
“I think it was a step in the right direction.”