Premier Darrell Pasloski has declared his opposition to a carbon tax for the Yukon, after news last week that the federal government plans to set a national minimum carbon price of at least $15 per tonne in the next six months. “We don’t support a new tax that’s going to raise the cost of living for Yukoners, where it’s already an expensive place to live,” he told the News.
This isn’t the first time the premier has taken this stance. A year ago, Pasloski came out swinging against then-Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau’s promise to put a price on carbon. He argued that consumption of fossil fuels in the North is a necessity, not a luxury.
But the issue is more pressing now, since a report in the Globe and Mail last week revealed that the Trudeau government is poised to establish working groups to agree on a national strategy by September.
The plan would set a national base price of $15 per tonne, which would increase each year. The provinces and territories that don’t currently have their own carbon pricing schemes would be expected to develop them.
Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall has since emerged as a dissenting voice, arguing that it’s not the right time for a carbon tax, given the state of Canada’s energy sector.
Pasloski now seems to have allied himself with Wall, though he said there are other jurisdictions that also oppose a tax.
Pasloski’s main argument against the tax is that it would increase the cost of living for Yukoners, specifically by making home heating more expensive.
B.C., however, has had a revenue-neutral carbon tax in place since 2008. There, the revenue from the tax is returned to citizens through tax reductions.
But Pasloski said that design is problematic, because it unfairly targets people with low income.
“If they’re not paying tax now, what would happen is they would pay more for fuel, but because they’re not paying any taxes, they’re not getting anything back,” he said. “That is a big part of my argument as to why that doesn’t work in the Yukon.”
However, B.C. does have a refundable low-income climate action tax credit intended to offset the carbon tax for low-income individuals and families.
Still, Pasloski said it makes more sense for the Yukon to focus on advancing new technology instead of taxing consumption.
“That is another way that we can look at making our contribution to climate change and greenhouse-gas reductions without adding a new tax for people to pay.”
He also argued, as he has in the past, that 95 per cent of the electricity consumed in the Yukon is already renewable, thanks to the territory’s hydro power resources.
But NDP environment critic Kate White said that statistic is misleading.
“It’s disingenuous, because 78 per cent of Yukon’s overall energy dependence is on fossil fuels. And that comes from transportation and home heating. And he doesn’t talk about that.”
White said the Yukon needs to do a better job of measuring its own emissions and coming up with solutions, instead of falling back on the excuse that the territory generates less than one per cent of Canadian greenhouse-gas emissions.
But she wouldn’t go so far as to say the NDP would support a carbon tax in the Yukon.
“An NDP government, we would demand targets. We would have timelines. We would have a plan. And we would see that plan come to fruition. What that plan looks like now, I absolutely can’t speak to.”
Pasloski will meet with Prime Minister Trudeau and the other premiers in Vancouver on March 3 to discuss the climate-change strategy.
But he refused to say what he will do if Trudeau decides to enforce a minimum carbon price without buy-in from all the provinces and territories.
“That would speak opposite to part of the type of governance that the prime minister spoke about in his campaign,” Pasloski said, “about inclusiveness and working together.”
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