Breakenridge: Ottawa undermines credibility on carbon tax, to Alberta's benefit

With their political fortunes sinking in Atlantic Canada, Justin Trudeau introduced a three-year exemption of the carbon tax on house heating oil

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It’s unlikely that Alberta Finance Minister Nate Horner’s criticism of the federal carbon tax final week prompted the prime minister’s weird about-face the next day. However regardless of the trigger, the prime minister has handed a serious political present to Alberta’s authorities, to not point out his different political opponents.

In acquiescing to requires a gathering of the nation’s finance ministers to debate Alberta’s potential exit from the Canada Pension Plan, Horner added just a few solutions of different issues of curiosity that might be on the agenda. That included the federal carbon tax, which Horner described as persevering with “to considerably enhance the price of residing for each Canadian.”

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After all, the federal authorities has lengthy rejected the argument that the carbon tax is contributing in any significant option to the cost-of-living disaster. That immediately got here to an finish final Thursday.

With their political fortunes sinking in Atlantic Canada, Justin Trudeau introduced a three-year exemption of the carbon tax on house heating oil. Trudeau additionally introduced that the carbon tax rebate for these residing in rural Canada would enhance.

Now, the carbon tax exemption isn’t explicitly regional in nature. Nonetheless, provided that house heating oil is a non-factor outdoors of Atlantic Canada, it’s most undoubtedly a regional exemption in all however title.

The apparent disconnect this new coverage creates was not misplaced on Alberta’s premier, who noted that she was “disturbed that very same break is not going to be prolonged to Albertans and people from Saskatchewan and elsewhere in Canada who warmth their properties with pure gasoline.”

It’s most unusual certainly that the carbon tax is not going to apply to essentially the most emissions-intensive type of house heating however will nonetheless apply to different varieties. For that matter, it’s fairly unusual that hardly a month earlier than the much-hyped COP28 summit, the federal authorities selected to water down its central greenhouse gasoline emissions coverage for nakedly political functions.

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It was additionally just some weeks in the past that the federal setting minister insisted that no province could be entitled to exemptions beneath federal environmental coverage. But, it now seems that exemptions are very a lot a chance, beneath the proper (political) circumstances.

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It’s additionally unusual that the identical day Trudeau was asserting the carbon tax exemption was the identical day his setting minister was making an attempt to clarify how the federal government could be responding to the latest Supreme Courtroom ruling that the Affect Evaluation Act is unconstitutional.

So right here now we have a authorities that responds to an infinite Supreme Courtroom defeat by undermining its personal Supreme Courtroom victory on the carbon tax.

In defending the constitutionality of its carbon pricing system, the federal government argued that it was important to have a nationwide method. As one authorities lawyer put it, “one province’s refusal or failure to sufficiently regulate greenhouse gasoline emissions impacts Canada as a complete.”

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Different issues now appear to have taken priority. However even these political calculations appear short-sighted and presumably counterproductive.

It’s not simply that the Liberals are conceding that the carbon tax impacts the price of residing; they’re acknowledging that not doing one thing about it sooner or extra broadly was a deliberate coverage alternative, and nothing extra. It’s exhausting to see how this helps them in the remainder of the nation.

Alberta can actually make a robust argument now that Ottawa’s lack of flexibility in different areas, such because the Clear Electrical energy Rules or the emissions cap on the oil and gasoline sector, is each deliberate and pointless. How can we imagine any future claims or assurances from the federal Liberals that they’re appearing pretty or in good religion on these issues?

Whereas Albertans may rightly grumble about this unfair double normal with regard to house heating payments, the Liberals torching their very own credibility may find yourself serving to Alberta’s trigger in different methods.

“Afternoons with Rob Breakenridge” airs weekdays from 12:30 to three p.m. on QR Calgary

[email protected]

Twitter: @RobBreakenridge

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