Saskatchewan on putting a price on carbon

by Aaron Wherry

I’ve yet to receive a response from Brad Wall’s government to my question about putting a price on carbon, but we can perhaps piece together Mr. Wall’s position from his statements in the past.

Last June, for instance, he offered the following assessment of the NDP’s position on resource development (taken from the transcript of a scrum with reporters published by the Regina Leader-Post).

This is a party… they are aspirants to be the government of Canada and he has been quite clear that his plan would be to “internalize” the environmental costs of the resource sector, not just the oil sands, that’s us! That is code for “cap-and-trade” or code for a carbon tax. First of all, in cap-and-trade, we have seen in Europe that it, frankly, has not worked on emissions. What it has done has been created in new tax and a wealth transfer—and I am not sure that we want to be copying anything that Europe has been doing lately in terms of its fiscal regimes. So as long as the Official Opposition in Canada is not backing down from its policy, which would hurt jobs in Saskatchewan, then we are going to defend the interests of the province.

Days earlier, Mr. Wall was a guest on CBC radio’s The House and was asked about Thomas Mulcair and cap-and-trade.

Evan Solomon: His point now he says is polluters pay. You’ve gotta enforce federal regulations, he says, through a cap and trade system, he believes, to price carbon, although he argues that, you know, Alberta’s got a 15 dollar price per ton on carbon already, and it hasn’t hurt that province; so does British Columbia. He’s arguing make polluters pay. What’s wrong with that?

Brad Wall: Well you know, it depends what he’s talking about, because these are two different models. If it’s, you know, a home-grown Alberta model, something we’re pursuing as well, and we will price carbon similarly, and what happens then are the emitters actually pay into a tech fund that they can access to invest in the technology like clean coal for example, where we’re trying to provide some leadership, and reduce emissions. Cap and trade is something different: cap and trade really is, from our perspective, it’s moving emissions around; it’s a tax, and it’s a transfer potentially out of a region of the economy where jobs are being created. So, I think there’s some agreement that we can have this kind of a program, we have the legislation in place for a fee for a levee ourselves, but it needs to stay in the province and it needs to fund the technology that will actually deal with the problem and not simply shift the emissions around.

Three years ago, he was asked about cap-and-trade by the Financial Post’s Diane Francis.

Q: What do you think of cap and trade?

A: “If we end up in North America with levies that go to government as a tax, then I have a big issue with that. That’s a transfer of wealth. All that money should be poured back into finding answers. If cap and trade goes to anything other than renewables or technology research, then it is not environmental policy but a tax.”

So Mr. Wall has concerns about cap-and-trade: specifically he worries about how revenues from it will be used and whether Saskatchewan will be able to keep the revenues generated from sources within the province. On those counts, Thomas Mulcair’s answers during my interview with the NDP leader last month are relevant.

And despite Mr. Wall’s concerns, he doesn’t oppose putting a price on carbon: Saskatchewan is actually already prepared to make polluters pay into a technology fund.

See previously: Newfoundland on carbon pricing and Nova Scotia and Manitoba on pricing carbon




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Saskatchewan on putting a price on carbon

  1. Mr. Wall doesn’t seem to be opposed to a transfer of wealth when it comes to transferring taxpayers dollars (Saskatchewan, Alberta and Canada) to Shell Oil to subsidize its carbon capture and sequestration fantasy. http://cleantechnica.com/2012/09/07/1-billion-carbon-capture-for-alberta-oil-sands/

    If carbon capture is such a great idea, why doesn’t Shell spend its own money? And if it is something that needs subsidy, why not at least collect the funds from carbon users instead of from general revenue wherein cyclists of equivalent income contribute the same as Hummer owners?

    • By that argument, if we are going to use tax as incentive to change how people act, then there should be a whole lot less taxes going into general revenue, which is where most taxes currently end up.

      I also don’t know if you want to start pointing fingers as to whether environmental measures should be feasible through private investment alone. Renewable energy as well has a lot of problems with feasibility currently, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t put public money towards it to develop that technology.

      Likewise, as carbon sources (oil, coal, natural gas etc.) are still very useful sources of energy, and will continue to be so for centuries, there is no reason why carbon capture shouldn’t receive a slice of the money that government spends on alternative technologies.

      • So it’s okay that Brad Wall is a hypocrite? Taxes you in order to transfer your wealth to projects controlled by polluters, but won’t tax the polluters?

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