By Kate Jackman-Atkinson, Neepawa Banner & Press
NEEPAWA, Man. — Somewhere, I suspect there are pigs flying. The Manitoba carbon tax was supposed to come into effect last weekend, but the NDP has delayed its implementation.
Yes, the NDP opposed a tax and in a letter to the editor, party leader Wab Kinew acknowledges the unexpectedness of the action, “I know some of you may be thinking, ‘The NDP giving us a tax break? What, is it going to snow today too?’”
As the official opposition, the NDP can designate up to five bills to hold over from the spring to the fall session. Bill 16: The Climate and Green Plan Implementation was one of the bills selected, which means the tax will be delayed until at least December 1. Kinew said that delaying the bill four months is expected to save Manitobans $60 million.
Under Bill 16, all Manitobans will pay a $25 per tonne carbon tax, except for the province’s largest emitters. At the end of July, the government announced they would exempt six companies from paying carbon taxes until they reach a certain benchmark, to be established on an individual basis by the province’s Climate and Energy Branch. Companies that exceed their benchmark can either pay $25 per tonne or purchase carbon credits from another company, which has earned them by falling below their benchmark. The province developed this plan to protect energy-intensive industries, such as mining and fertilizer production, whose global competitors aren’t subject to carbon taxes.
In delaying the bill, the NDP is appealing to the majority of Manitobans who oppose the tax. No matter the motivation, the carbon tax will be disastrous for Manitoba.
When it was announced, I was supportive of the tax, provided it was actually helping Manitobans move to more energy efficient practices. I could have supported an initiative that used the revenue collected to, for example, help people replace inefficient furnaces, pay farmers for the ecological goods and services they provide, or give drivers of fuel-efficient vehicles a break on their insurance or an incentive to purchase. But that’s not the case. The government has said that the money collected will be returned to Manitobans in the form of broad tax reductions, including lower income, sales and small business taxes. The carbon tax will apply to everyone and does little to support a move towards energy efficiency.
This was also the position taken by the Manitoba Trucking Association (MTA), whose members will pay $50 million a year in carbon taxes. According to MTA data, the trucking industry accounts for 11 percent of the province’s emissions, yet will be paying 20 percent of the expected total tax revenue. MTA would have liked a portion of the carbon tax used to fund initiatives that would result in meaningful changes to the industry’s carbon footprint. Instead, all Manitobans will have is higher costs. That, and a competitive disadvantage compared to Saskatchewan, which is still holding out on a carbon tax and Alberta, which has said they will withdraw from the Canadian plan.
It isn’t just the carbon tax that will hit Manitobans, there’s also the ongoing trade war. Manufacturing is Manitoba’s largest industry, accounting for 12 percent of the province’s GDP, and it is already being hit hard by increased prices on vital inputs, such as steel, which has increased in price by about a third over the summer months. While these increases are being felt across the country, it’s one more cost being layered onto Manitobans.
Whether it’s battling the extreme temperatures or covering the wide expanse of space, energy use is inescapable in Manitoba. We want to protect the environment, but a tax that doesn’t reward or recognize those emitting the least does nothing to achieve this goal. I wish the NDP luck in their efforts.