Nova Scotia and Manitoba on pricing carbon

Alberta, British Columbia and Quebec already have some form of carbon pricing. Quebec is set to move forward with a cap-and-trade system and Ontario is still, at least on paper, committed to doing likewise (though it obviously remains to be seen who will be in charge of that province this time next year).

As for the other provinces, I’ve asked a few of them: what is the government’s position on carbon pricing, either through a carbon tax or cap-and-trade?

A spokeswoman for Nova Scotia Premier Darrell Dexter responds as follows.

Premier Dexter has not supported a carbon tax approach because energy is often an essential expenditure for Canadian households. Nova Scotia has spent several years looking at cap and trade models, but in 2009 decided to reduce emissions through regulation rather than wait indefinitely for a cap and trade model that was solid enough to merit consideration of Nova Scotia joining. Companies in Nova Scotia that tried to use cap and trade systems found it was not very worthwhile.

When I asked about the possibility of a national cap-and-trade system, I was told, essentially, that the Premier would have to think about it before offering an opinion. (“The Premier would give a considered answer, which would take some time, since that has not been a focus of his environmental or energy policies as NDP leader and then as premier also. There’s not much more we would be prepared to say on that right now.”)

A spokesman for the Manitoba government, meanwhile, offers the following.

Manitoba has taken a number of steps to reduce GHG emissions within Manitoba and abroad. We remain a full partner and continue to observe the progress being made within the Western Climate Initiative (WCI). Last year we publicly consulted on a cap and trade system. The reaction we received was mixed. There are concerns about the potential impacts that a cap and trade system, as proposed under the current WCI framework, would have on Manitoba’s economy.

In January of this year our government introduced a $10 per tonne emission tax on coal and committed to use the revenue generated by the tax to help coal users transition to renewable biomass energy. Already we have seen a significant transition from coal to biomass in rural Manitoba.

In our Speech from the Throne last month, our government committed to bringing in a new mandatory emissions reporting regulation for large emitters. This new standard will bring the threshold for reporting below the current federal standard and will provide Manitoba with important information on the sources and magnitude of emissions in the province.

Manitoba generally supports carbon pricing as an effective means of reducing GHG emissions and transitioning toward a lower carbon economy. Given the relative size of Manitoba’s economy and our lack of point-source emitters, it is difficult for our province to move forward with carbon pricing policies on our own, but we continue to monitor and evaluate actions taken in other jurisdictions.

Manitoba’s preference, in the absence of federal leadership, is to move forward with an approach to carbon pricing that is consistent with jurisdictions across Canada. In our role as Co-Chair of the Council of the Federation’s Canadian Energy Strategy Working Group, Manitoba looks forward to leading a discussion on potential carbon pricing models.

Both the Manitoba and Nova Scotia governments are NDP governments. The New Democrats in Manitoba have a majority and conceivably won’t face another election until 2015. The New Democrats in Nova Scotia have a majority, but will likely face a difficult election in the new year.

The Liberal government in British Columbia, which instituted that province’s carbon tax, could be defeated next year by the NDP, but the province’s NDP leader seems interested in keeping the tax.

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