The UCP suddenly has their most powerful case ever against the carbon tax, but lust for a provincial pension plan gets in the way.
Provincial and federal finance ministers will meet virtually on Friday after an urgent demand from Ontario.
Unfortunately, it’s all about national hostility to the UCP’s pension dream, which the government continues to promote with unrealistic numbers and impossible promises.
Finance Minister Nate Horner sent a letter to federal Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland on Wednesday, repeating the LifeWorks study conclusion that Alberta could be owed $334 billion from the Canada Pension Plan.
He also acknowledged that Ottawa might have other information. You can count on that.
This is a massive wasted opportunity. The meeting should be all about the carbon tax uproar.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made a generational political blunder when he personally exempted heating oil from the carbon tax as a throw to pressure from Liberal ministers and MPs in Atlantic provinces.
That’s not a theory. Rural Development Minister Gudie Hutchings admitted it publicly. Just elect more Liberals on the Prairies, she said, and maybe you’ll get a break, too.
The Liberals then doubled down against demands for similar breaks. No more carve-outs, they said categorically.
Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe blew up. Unless natural gas for heating gets a similar break in Saskatchewan, he’ll tell SaskEnergy to stop collecting and remitting the carbon tax on Jan. 1.
Premier Danielle Smith would love to make the same point. But Alberta has no Crown corporation to distribute natural gas. She can’t give such an order to private companies.
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The feds immediately attacked Moe, saying refusal to collect the tax would be against the law.
It’s the pinnacle of hypocrisy for federal ministers to accuse Moe of breaking the law, when they just lifted the tax for one category of fuel.
They may not technically violate their own legislation, but they certainly shatter its spirit and credibility.
The condemnation is nearly unanimous from all over the climate spectrum.
Columnist Max Fawcett wrote in the online publication National Observer, which focuses on climate advocacy: “They’ve even managed the herculean task of making me agree with Alberta Premier Danielle Smith.”
Smith had said on X, formerly Twitter, “The federal government has decided that one part of Canada with one type of home heating is worthy of a carbon tax break, while those living elsewhere using another type of home heating do not.”
Fawcett came to a startling conclusion for such a firm advocate. “The carbon tax and rebate — which so many environmental economists have spent much time and effort defending — is effectively dead.”
In the legislature Tuesday, UCP MLAs debated a government motion to kill the entire consumer carbon tax.
Several argued that Ottawa always presented that tax as a moral duty to act against climate change.
Peace River MLA Dan Williams said: “The truth is that from the very start it was not about the moral argument. That condescension, that dripping moral indignation was all a sham. Its purpose was nothing more than to gain power and to gain your tax dollars at the expense of trust in our institutions.”
Twenty-six NDP members sat silent for all this. They voted against the UCP motion without debating it.
But Leader Rachel Notley had offered her own motion for Ottawa to eliminate the carbon tax on all heating fuels for the period of the Atlantic tax relief (three years).
The NDP wasn’t willing to ask for abolition of the entire tax. But it was remarkable that they urged any relief at all, after creating their own carbon tax when in office, and then accepting the federal replacement.
That was just one sign of collapsing support for the tax. Some First Nations demand a full exemption. The NDP in B.C., which has its own federally approved carbon regime, faces calls to exempt all home heating fuel.
Trudeau has created a monstrous mess that threatens both the tax regime and his leadership.
And what will Canada’s finance ministers talk about Friday? A giant red herring from Alberta.
Don Braid’s column appears regularly in the Herald