The federal carbon tax rules could push the price of gas up over 11 cents a litre by 2022. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News

Yukon government launches carbon tax survey as Opposition raises concerns

Yukon Party accuses Liberals of ‘picking winners and losers’

The territorial government is issuing a survey today looking for input on how the carbon tax will be rebated to Yukoners.

Meanwhile federal officials will be in the territory Aug. 17-18 for meetings as part of a study on how the North will be impacted by the new tax.

The Yukon government’s survey was momentarily active yesterday before it was shut down. It’s once again online.

According to the document, the Yukon is expecting the price of gas to go up 2.33 cents per litre in 2018, when the federal rules for jurisdictions that don’t have their own carbon tax take effect. That would work out to about $5 million in revenue.

By 2022 the federal government’s rules mean the cost of gas will go up 11.63 cents a litre generating about $25 million, the survey says.

The Yukon Liberals have promised to rebate that money.

The survey, which is open until Sept. 13, asks for Yukoners’ opinions on how rebates might be handed out — through a cheque, direct deposit, tax credit or by reducing the income tax rate.

It also asks Yukoners to consider whether certain people and Yukon businesses should get more of a rebate than others.

“In your opinion, how important is it that Yukoners belonging to the following groups receive a higher rebate than others?” the survey asks, while listing off options like seniors, low-income Yukoners, Yukoners with children and rural Yukoners.

A similar question focuses on whether certain types of businesses, those considered energy intensive or businesses that are not connected to the grid, should get a higher rebate than others.

The possibility of giving some Yukoners and Yukon businesses larger rebates than others has the official Opposition accusing the government of breaking an election promise.

Yukon Party MLA Scott Kent said instead of giving Yukoners all the money back they spent on the tax, Premier Sandy Silver would be “picking winners and losers.”

“He never said during the campaign or since that he would be picking winners and losers with this carbon tax scheme. So absolutely it would be breaking a campaign commitment.”

The Liberal campaign platform promises that the carbon tax would “be distributed back to individual Yukoners and businesses through a rebate.”

In the legislative assembly in April Silver said the tax would be “truly revenue neutral for Yukon business and Yukon families.”

The premier was not available for an interview in time for today’s story.

Eric Clement, a spokesperson for the Department of Finance, said one of the government’s key considerations is that a carbon tax should not disproportionately impact vulnerable people.

“The rebate mechanism could be designed to address these concerns. The public survey … has highlighted these concerns so that Yukoners can give the government input on these and other considerations,” he said in an email.

The 2018 deadline to come up with a rebate plan is fast approaching, Kent said.

“I suspect they’re finding it more difficult than they thought to give every Yukon business and Yukon family their money back.”

This summer, federal Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna promised to study the North’s “unique circumstances” and “find solutions.”

Silver has said that could mean “sector-specific” carbon tax exemptions.

As part of that study, federal officials will be in Whitehorse Aug. 17 and Dawson City and Haines Junction Aug. 18, Clement said.

Meetings are scheduled with municipalities, First Nation governments and various industry representatives, including the territory’s airlines, mining associations and energy companies.

No meetings with the general public have been scheduled.

Calls to the federal environment department were not returned in time for today’s deadline.

McKenna has promised a decision on how the tax will be applied in the North before it comes into effect across Canada in 2018.

Contact Ashley Joannou at ashleyj@yukon-news.com