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Placer miners win carbon tax rebate from Yukon government

Northern airline industry exempted from levy by Ottawa
Yukon Premier Sandy Silver announced his government will be rebating all money paid by the placer mines, like this one pictured in central Yukon, as aresult of carbon pricing. (Ian Stewart/Yukon News file)

Yukon Premier Sandy Silver says his government will rebate all money paid by the placer mining industry as a result of carbon pricing.

On June 27, he also reiterated an announcement first made in May that the federal government has exempted airlines from having to pay.

Silver said his government has been talking with the federal government about ways to mitigate the impact of carbon pricing on placer miners.

“We have determined that the most effective way of doing so would be to rebate placer miners dollar-for-dollar,” he said.

Silver said placer miners are being rebated because they don’t have alternatives to using fossil fuels.

“They require large amounts of fossil fuel to produce a good that they can sell only at a given price. So as a miner you do not have the option to increase the price of the goods that you produce and the price of gold is determined by that global market.”

The decision to exempt airlines was a federal one, something Silver said premiers from the North have been lobbying for.

“These exceptions will help keep the travel costs within the territory as they are and the hard earned dollars of Yukoners in their pockets,” he said.

The decision to rebate placer miners was a territorial one. The Yukon has also said it plans to return money spent on the carbon tax dollar-for-dollar to municipalities and First Nations governments.

He said the government is also working with the federal government to determine a solution for quartz mining.

“Putting a price on carbon is recognized internationally as one of the most cost-effective ways of reducing our reliance on fossil fuel. Full stop. So what we’re doing in the Yukon is making sure that the carbon pricing mechanism works as it’s supposed to work and doesn’t penalize districts like the North that have higher costs of living.”

Officials have previously said that the dollar-for-dollar rebate being given to municipalities and First Nations amounts to approximately $300,000 in carbon tax costs for municipalities when the federal government implements a $20/tonne tax in 2019. The First Nations’ cut will equal approximately $60,000.

Cabinet spokesperson Sunny Patch said 22 million litres of fuel was exempted from the fuel tax in 2016. That includes both placer and quartz mining. She was not able to provide an estimated dollar amount for how much placer miners are expected to pay in carbon tax.

The premier said details of how money will be rebated to placer miners are still being worked out.

The territorial government has promised to return any money from the carbon tax to Yukoners and Yukon businesses. Details of how that will work will be released in the fall, according to a government press release.

Silver said Yukoners will be getting cheques but it’s still not clear how often those cheques will be issued.

He said the government is still working out whether the size of that cheque will change depending on someone’s income level but acknowledged that carbon pricing shouldn’t adversely affect someone who is already living with a low income.

He said the territorial government has also had conversations with Ottawa about the possibility of handing out preemptive cheques at the beginning of the year.

“If you’re sitting beside your neighbour and your neighbour has a more energy efficient vehicle they’re going to reap more of a benefit to that then you are,” he said.

“So that will make you think maybe if I change my behaviours then I’m getting a rebate as well, I’m getting the same as my neighbour. So that way I’m going to start thinking about the cost of carbon.”

Joe Sparling, the president of Air North, said he is pleased that airlines will not have to pay the carbon tax but hopes other industries will also get exceptions.

Sparling said he is expecting to buy 22 million litres of fuel in 2018. At a hypothetical five cent per litre increase that would have cost an extra $1.1 million, he said.

The carbon tax will have an impact on all Yukoners, he said. That’s on top of the more significant impact of rising fuel prices.

“What makes that extra painful is the fact that world dynamics are causing fuel prices to rise quite dramatically,” he said.

“Our year over year price of jet fuel May 2018 to May 2017 is up 20 cents a litre and you’re seeing similar increases at the pumps.”

He said he thinks the opposition to the carbon tax is “picking up steam.”

“The relief for aviation is welcome and we’re thankful for it, but I really hope they find relief for other users of fuel such as households that buy heating fuel and people that have to put fuel in their vehicles.”

Contact Ashley Joannou at