By Steve Lambert, The Canadian Press
BRANDON, Man. — One day after signalling a compromise on a carbon tax, Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister pitched the idea to agriculture producers who have largely opposed a tax on carbon and who have faced big bills from the federal levy.
Pallister told an agricultural exposition Tuesday that he plans to introduce a provincial carbon tax which, unlike the federal one, would not apply to grain-drying costs.
“Just that alone is a significant indication of the cost benefits of having a Manitoba plan,” Pallister told a few hundred people at Manitoba Ag Days.
“We are going to implement our made-in-Manitoba green plan because it is better for the economy than Ottawa’s, it is better for the environment than Ottawa’s and, most importantly it is better for us, our children and grandchildren than Ottawa’s.”
The announcement follows Pallister’s decision Monday to open a door to negotiate with the federal government toward a provincial carbon tax.
Manitoba originally proposed a flat $25 per tonne levy, but withdrew the plan when Ottawa said it was not good enough. The federal government imposed its own tax, which is set to rise to $50 per tonne by 2022.
Pallister’s stance breaks with his fellow Prairie conservative premiers. Alberta’s Jason Kenney and Scott Moe of Saskatchewan are vocal opponents of the federal tax and have refused demands to implement their own carbon pricing system. All three provinces are challenging the federal levy in court.
The federal carbon tax has also been widely opposed in Manitoba’s farming areas — a big base for Pallister’s Progressive Conservatives.
Keystone Agricultural Producers, the province’s largest farm group, said it is pleased with Pallister’s promise to exempt grain-drying costs,
“I would think it is a step in the right direction,” said Keystone president Bill Campbell.
“When you put (it) all together, it looks like … about $1.7 million that Manitoba agriculture is paying in a carbon tax for grain corn alone.”
Farmers across much of the West faced a soggy harvest in the fall and have had to spend time and money drying grain with natural gas and propane. Campbell said they also face competition from farmers in the United States who do not pay a carbon tax.
Pallister promised other help for producers. He reiterated an election pledge to increase the amount of ethanol required in gasoline and biofuel required in diesel, and said the change will come this year.
While Pallister is working to convince people of the benefits of a provincial carbon tax, he is not prepared to say what dollar amount he is planning. He has only said he wants credit from the federal government for the billions of dollars Manitoba has spent on developing clean hydroelectricity.
However, federal Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson did not appear enthusiastic about crediting the province for past measures. Wilkinson said on Monday that carbon plans should be focused on reducing emissions that exist currently.