Barbs fly over carbon tax as election call looms

The Yukon Liberals say a national carbon tax will not hurt Yukoners already struggling to get by if a territorial Liberal government is elected.

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The Yukon NDP says internal documents obtained through an access-to-information request show that the Yukon government has been quietly analyzing the impact of a carbon tax in the territory for months.

The documents include a January, 2016, analysis from the Climate Change Secretariat that looks at what it will take for the territory to reach its goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2020. That target was first announced in 2009.

The analysis seems to calculate the cost of different carbon taxes, ranging from $13 per tonne to $120 per tonne of CO2 emissions. Most of the numbers have been redacted, however.

NDP Leader Liz Hanson says the documents show that Premier Darrell Pasloski isn’t being forthcoming when he claims the Yukon Party will not consider a carbon price.

“It’s clear they’ve done their own internal work,” she said. “We know that at least since January … they have as cabinet discussed the issues around carbon pricing.”

Both Hanson and Liberal Leader Sandy Silver say the federal government will impose a national carbon price, and they accuse Pasloski of being disingenuous in claiming the Yukon can oppose it.

“We can bury our heads in the sand and we can say somehow sticking our head in the sand is sticking up for Yukoners,” Silver said during a press conference on Monday. “Or we can take a look at our reality, which is a government on a national basis campaigned on a national tax and will be implementing one.”

As carbon pricing looks to become one of the major issues in the coming territorial election, the opposition parties are starting to roll out their own positions.

Hanson said she’d like to see the federal government use half the revenue from a national carbon tax for a new refundable tax credit for low-income households. “We would like those lower-income families to receive more on average in credits than they pay in carbon tax,” she said.

The rest should be used to fund green energy initiatives to create jobs in renewable energy, retrofit buildings and improve public transit, she said.

For their part, the Yukon Liberals say they’ll ensure a national carbon tax does not hurt Yukoners already struggling to get by.

On Monday, Mount Lorne-Southern Lakes candidate John Streicker said the Yukon Liberals will negotiate with Ottawa to make sure that all carbon tax revenue is returned to Yukoners, making it revenue-neutral.

“The average Yukoner will typically get more money than they pay in carbon tax,” he said.

Streicker said Pasloski is missing the point when he claims that a carbon tax will increase the cost of diapers and gasoline.

“A price on carbon is supposed to raise the price of goods that are more dependent on fossil fuels,” he said. “Consumers then start to seek out low-emission alternatives. It’s polluter-pay.”

The cost of diapers will go up if a carbon tax is implemented, but under a Liberal government, “you will get more money back in your pocket than you pay and even more if you choose to switch to low-emission local solutions,” he said.

The Yukon Party immediately went on the attack with a statement issued after the Liberals’ press conference on Monday, claiming “that the Yukon Liberals will force a carbon tax on Yukon families.”

“Let’s be clear. The Liberals support this tax,” Pasloski told the News. “It will make everything more expensive.”

Asked repeatedly why he would oppose a revenue-neutral carbon tax, he claimed that a carbon price “will do nothing to reduce emissions” because people still have to heat their homes and drive their cars.

In March, Pasloski and the other Canadian premiers signed the Vancouver Declaration on climate change, which included a commitment to “transition to a low-carbon economy by adopting a broad range of domestic measures, including carbon pricing mechanisms, adapted to each province’s and territory’s specific circumstances.”

But Pasloski said the declaration includes a “carve-out” that recognizes the “unique challenges” in the North.

The declaration states that the working group that has been formed to discuss carbon pricing will “take account of particular challenges, such as those facing northern and remote communities.”

Last week, federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna suggested Canadian jurisdictions will need to implement either a carbon tax or a cap-and-trade system. The Liberal government is expected to announce a national policy for carbon pricing this fall.

But on one point at least, the Yukon Party and the Liberals seem to agree. Both say a cap-and-trade system isn’t viable in the Yukon.

“It doesn’t make sense in the economy of scale that we have here,” Streicker said on Monday.

“We don’t have the industry here to be able to create a cap-and-trade system,” Pasloski said yesterday.

Contact Maura Forrest at maura.forrest@yukon-news.com

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