Canada Conservative climate plan will impose a $20-per-tonne carbon charge on fuel
B.C. delegates call for 'green new deal' as federal Liberals debate future of climate policy
As the federal government pushes to lower greenhouse gas emissions and accelerate the transition to cleaner fuel sources, delegates at the Liberal Party's policy convention will debate how to craft a "just transition" for energy workers who will lose their jobs as a result.And after the Canada emergency response benefit (CERB) kept millions of people afloat with monthly cheques during the first wave of the pandemic, some Liberal members now want to see a similar program become a permanent feature of the country's social safety net.
OTTAWA — Conservative leader Erin O’Toole has released a climate platform that puts a $20-per-tonne carbon charge on fuel — a major change for a party that has repeatedly attacked Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s federal carbon price on fuels.
O’Toole has steadfastly promised to scrap Trudeau’s “carbon tax,” but he insisted on Thursday that his plan is not a tax because the money will go into a personalized “low carbon savings account” that consumers can spend on environmentally-friendly purchases. The Liberal program, meanwhile, sees the money collected by the federal government and redistributed to consumers through tax rebates.
Conservatives plan to introduce $20-per-tonne carbon price in climate plan
OTTAWA — Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole is pitching a $20-per-tonne carbon price for consumers in his party's plan to tackle climate change. The move represents a major policy shift for the party, which has long campaigned to scrap the program introduced by the Liberals under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. The 15-page document, obtained by The Canadian Press, is set to be announced by O'Toole later this morning and outlines how carbon pricing would work under the Conservatives. It says the price would start at $20 per tonne and rise to no higher than $50 per tonne.
“Zero dollars go to government,” O’Toole said about his plan. “This is not a tax at all, I have said it is a pricing mechanism for consumers. It will be one third the pricing of Mr. Trudeau’s ever-rising carbon tax, but nothing goes to government. It is not a tax.”
However, the Conservative plan still sees a fuel surcharge that consumers pay, rising to a maximum of $50 per tonne. Some critics quickly slammed O’Toole for backtracking on his pledge.
“It’s outrageous that O’Toole is now planning to hammer Canadians with higher fuel bills through his very own carbon tax,” said a statement from Franco Terrazzano, Alberta Director for the Canadian Taxpayers Federation. “When he was running for leader, O’Toole pledged to taxpayers that he would fight carbon taxes. If he goes through with this scheme, he will be breaking his promise to Canadians.”
Is Canada finally inching toward a political consensus on climate change?
On the day Erin O'Toole tacitly gave up his party's opposition to carbon-pricing ("We recognize," he said, "that the most efficient way to reduce our emissions is to use pricing mechanisms") he struggled to explain why his proposal for a lower price on carbon was more altruistic than the policies Conservatives have spent more than a decade condemning. "I have said it is a pricing mechanism for consumers," O'Toole told reporters on Thursday. "It is not a tax." O'Toole surely knows that Conservatives would never accept such dissembling from a Liberal or NDP leader.
Currently, the Liberals’ federal carbon price on fuels is set to rise to $50 per tonne in 2022, and then jump annually until it reaches $170 per tonne by 2030.
The Conservative plan plan was welcomed by Clean Prosperity, a non-profit that advocates carbon pricing, though it said the lower carbon price makes it a less efficient mechanism for achieving emissions reductions.
“The climate plan proposed by Erin O’Toole today is a significant step in the right direction for the Conservative Party of Canada and for climate action,” said Michael Bernstein, executive director of Clean Prosperity. “All major political parties in Canada now agree that carbon pricing should be at the heart of any climate plan.”
O’Toole’s plan compares the carbon savings account to a rewards program, saying it could be managed “by a consortium of companies as the INTERAC system is.” It does not include an estimate of how much it will cost to set up and run this new program.
Opinion: With green O'Toole bucks, the Conservatives have embraced carbon taxes
Conservative Party leader Erin O’Toole is set to lose the trust of millions of Canadians and betray hard working taxpayers by embracing carbon taxes. The Conservative Party has long promised to repeal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s federal carbon tax mandate immediately after forming government. Former Conservative Party leader Andrew Scheer’s promise to repeal the carbon tax was on page one of the party’s 2019 election platform . The Conservative Party actually won a plurality of the popular vote on election night with a commitment to repeal the carbon tax front and centre. Until yesterday, the Conservative Party was adamantly opposed to a carbon tax.
“Canadians will pay into their Personal Low Carbon Savings Account each time they buy hydrocarbon-based fuel,” the document says. “They will be able to apply the money in their account towards things that help them live a greener life. That could mean buying a transit pass or a bicycle, or saving up and putting the money towards a new efficient furnace, energy efficient windows or even an electric vehicle.”
The Conservative plan will keep a separate carbon pricing program in place for large emitters, as the Liberal plan does.
“We will assess progress after two years and be prepared to set industrial carbon prices on a path to $170/tonne by 2030, but only if the combination of adopting a price based on that of our major trading partners and working with the U.S. on North American standards has not assured us that we are on a path to our Paris commitment,” the document says, referring to the Paris Agreement.
The Conservatives also released modelling from Navius Research that says their plan will achieve comparable emissions reductions to what the current federal Liberal policy does. Along with the carbon pricing system, the plan includes “flexible regulations” that will help achieve the reduction goals, relying particularly on policies the B.C. government has implemented.
For example, the Conservative plans promises a “zero emission vehicle mandate based on British Columbia’s, requiring 30 per cent of light duty vehicles sold to be zero emissions by 2030.”
It also introduces “a Renewable Natural Gas Mandate, based on British Columbia’s policy, requiring 15 per cent of downstream consumption to be renewable by 2030.”
Other elements of the plan include promises to:
- study “the potential for introducing new taxes on frequent flyers, non-electric luxury vehicles and second homes to deter activities that hurt the environment”
- “study the imposition of a carbon border tariff which would reflect the amount of carbon emissions attributed to goods imported into Canada”
- “finalize and improve the Clean Fuel Regulations to reduce carbon emissions from every litre of gasoline,” aiming to achieve “a 20% reduction in carbon intensity for transport fuels”
Will this be the emissions target Canadians can take seriously? .
Canada has never had a hard time setting targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The challenge has been to actually meet those targets.So you would be forgiven for casting a skeptical eye at the Liberal government's pledge to now aim for a reduction in Canada's emissions of 40 to 45 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030 — a deeper cut than the 30 per cent reduction Canada has been promising to achieve since 2015.