N.B. expects answer from Ottawa on carbon-pricing plan any day now
FREDERICTON -- New Brunswick is still waiting on word from Ottawa to approve its carbon-pricing plan for industry, which the minister of environment says should come any day now.
In the meantime, though, he's preparing as if he already has it.
The Irving Oil refinery and NB Power's coal-fired generating station are two of the province's largest greenhouse gas emitters.
Right now, those industries, along with a number of others, have to pay a levy under the federal government's price-on-carbon system.
But last summer, the province submitted a plan of its own, which the federal government has yet to accept.
"I am surprised I haven't heard by now, they did say shortly in the new year," said New Brunswick Minister of Environment and Local Government Jeff Carr.
But while he waits, Carr is working ahead, trying to get the legislation that will be needed ready to go.
"The bill needs to clearly say that these industrial regulations are designed to help us achieve our carbon pollution targets for 2030 and 2050," said Green Party leader David Coon.
Tuesday afternoon, that amendment was made to the proposed legislation, and passed in committee, but the minister says he's still waiting on approval and, until it's approved, New Brunswick's industry isn't on a level playing field.
"We're very concerned and we hope that it does come soon," Carr said.
Carr said the province is also hearing from industries in New Brunswick that they have some "economic uncertainty" about their long-term future in the province if they're treated much differently than industries in other provinces.
"I wouldn't disagree with the minister, that there's a bit of difference among the provinces, absolutely," said Louise Comeau, a Conservation Council policy analyst and UNB researcher. "Do I think that's a good thing? No I don't. Where do we need to go over time? We need to bring everybody up so that everybody's performing at the highest level."
By "everybody" Comeau means, at the very least, other Atlantic provinces.
She says what the province has proposed in its plan to Ottawa is too weak and doesn't encourage industry to innovate.
"Moving industry forward, to be the most productive they can be, and emit the least amount of pollution possible," Comeau said.
There are some possible additions coming to the province that could change current emissions, like a proposed iron-processing plant in Belledune.
Carr says he is hoping that, if, or when, Ottawa accepts New Brunswick's carbon pricing plan for large emitters, the legislation is already ready to go.
As for when that might be, he wasn't sure.