Manitoba NDP plan to delay carbon tax, want cash for energy efficiency programs

Manitoba opposition leader Wab Kinew speaks to media outside the legislature after the provincial throne speech was read at the Manitoba Legislature in Winnipeg, Tuesday, November 21, 2017. Kinew says his New Democrats will delay the province's proposed carbon tax law. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods

WINNIPEG - The Sept. 1 start date for Manitoba's new carbon tax appears set to be pushed back three months.

The Opposition New Democrats said Thursday they plan to delay passage of the bill enacting the tax until some time after the fall sitting of the legislature begins on Oct. 3.

NDP Leader Wab Kinew said the Progressive Conservative government's plan for revenues from the tax is wrong.

"They're asking Manitobans to pay about $300 more a year, but they're not offering any programs or any assistance that are going to actually help people transition to a lower-carbon lifestyle," Kinew said following a speech to the Manitoba Chambers of Commerce.

The tax will price carbon at $25 per tonne. It will add just over five cents a litre to the price of gasoline and drive up the cost of diesel, natural gas and propane.

The government has said it will use much of the $250 million in new revenue to cut income and sales taxes to compensate for the higher energy costs.

Kinew said the government should instead use the carbon tax money to support people and companies to adopt energy-efficient technology.

Kinew also said he would be comfortable with a $50 per tonne carbon tax — an amount pushed by the federal government but rejected by Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister.

"At the current levels being debated — $25 to $50 — I'm not opposed to either one. What really matters is what happens with those revenues and what goes back out the door to help people transition (to lower emissions.)"

While the Tories have a solid majority, legislature rules allow the Opposition to choose up to five bills each spring to be held over until the fall. The carbon tax bill is the first to be chosen by the NDP this year.

Kinew admitted the government could try to enact the tax on Sept. 1 before the bill passes, or lump it in with another bill, but said the ball is in the premier's court.

"If Pallister wants to start charging a carbon tax right away, without having the legislation in place to do so, then let him make that argument to Manitobans."

Sustainable Development Minister Rochelle Squires gave no signal Thursday that the government would try to find a way around the NDP delay. She said the tax will be in effect by Dec. 1 — a backup date that was written into the bill.

Squires said the NDP is not only delaying the tax, but also other aspects of the bill that set up green initiatives. The bill requires the government to take several steps including setting emissions targets and establishing an expert advisory council on emissions reduction.

"They are delaying action in this province on climate change," she said.


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