N.B. Tories confirm opposition to provincial carbon levy if elected
MONCTON, N.B. -- New Brunswick's Tory leader has officially joined forces with his counterparts in Ontario, Saskatchewan and Alberta, promising that his government won't bring in a carbon tax on consumers if elected on Sept. 24.
Progressive Conservative leader Blaine Higgs said Monday that he believes a Tory government would "meet its obligations to the environment" with methods other than raising levies on consumers, but he was not clear in a news release on what precisely that means.
Ottawa has said the provinces must place a levy on carbon and that this tax should be sufficient to meet the federal government plans for carbon reduction.
The federal government has said that if provinces don't place the levy on consumers aimed at reducing their consumption of fossil fuels, Ottawa will do so, and Ottawa will then have final say in how the revenue-neutral tax is funnelled back to the taxpayers in New Brunswick.
Higgs has been on the record saying he would join with other Conservative governments in opposing Ottawa's carbon emissions law in the courts.
"A Blaine Higgs government believes we can meet our obligations to the environment without digging deeper into taxpayers' wallets," says the news released issued Monday.
"We will develop a comprehensive plan to ensure we are reducing our emissions output and providing incentives for green energy and green technology development."
The Liberal government in New Brunswick hasn't imposed a provincial carbon tax on consumers, but it has turned to Ottawa to regulate the industrial side of carbon emissions.
The Liberals are taking a portion of the existing excise tax on gasoline and are dedicating it towards a climate change fund, however this approach hasn't been accepted by Ottawa yet as adequately meeting its plan.
Premier Brian Gallant said Monday that the legal route being threatened by Higgs is unrealistic.
"The court case, we don't think has much chance of succeeding, which means that Blaine Higgs and the Conservatives are accepting a federal backstop, which I think is a mistake, for us," he said.
"The plan we put forward will phase out coal by 2030, will ask large corporations who are the largest emitters to pay their fair share when it comes to the emissions they are putting out, and we will ensure there not be one cent more on the consumers of our province."
Meanwhile, the third-place Green Party officially launched its campaign platform at its Fredericton headquarters on Monday, with leader David Coon calling it "Our Pathway for Change."
It included a wide range of policies aimed at reducing carbon consumption.
A party spokeswoman said the party has already accepted that a federal Liberal plan is going ahead for adding a consumer levy on carbon consumption and a Green Party government would work with the federal government on how the money raised will be spent in New Brunswick.
The party's campaign platform says there would be a cap set on industrial carbon emissions, major increases to public transportation, and support for the building of infrastructure to "support walking and cycling lifestyles."
The party, which has a single seat in the legislature, would also prohibit the extraction of shale gas, require that half of electricity is produced by renewable energy for 2025, and provide financing to homeowners and businesses to convert from oil and gas to local sources of renewable energy.
Louise Comeau, a University of New Brunswick research associate on climate issues, says regardless of which party takes power there is a need to find ways to protect New Brunswickers from the impact of climate change -- and to take measures to reduce carbon consumption by consumers.
She notes that climate change has been taking a toll already on the province through flooding, heat waves that are hitting agriculture, and coastal surges, and that the province will need revenues to cope with climate adaptation.
"The actions we're taking are inadequate to protect our people. We all need to step up, and that's the challenge and concern and frustration I feel after 30 years of working on this issue," she said.
"I wish we were having a more mature conversation about how our province is going to be resilient in the face of climate change."
Meanwhile, the provincial Liberals said Monday if they're re-elected they will increase the minimum wage to $14 per hour by 2022.
The first increase would come on April 1, 2019, when a 75 cent raise would increase minimum pay to $12 hourly.
The Gallant government has raised the minimum wage four times since 2014, representing a 12.5 per cent increase.
-- By Michael Tutton in Halifax.