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According to a recent Angus Reid poll, 45 per cent of Atlantic Canadians support a provincial carbon tax, with 55 per cent opposed.
According to a recent Angus Reid poll, 45 per cent of Atlantic Canadians support a provincial carbon tax, with 55 per cent opposed. - 123RF Stock Photo

Province settling with feds before details made public, premier says

Premier Dwight Ball is preparing to pitch Newfoundland and Labrador’s carbon pricing plan to the federal government by its September deadline, but still isn’t speaking about the details.

He said the province is developing a unique carbon pricing plan. It will be introduced to the public later this year, assuming the federal government stands firm in its carbon pricing demands, and assuming what the province puts forward is accepted by the feds.

“I just came back from (the meeting of Canadian premiers in) New Brunswick. I have no indication where I have ever seen the federal government ever say they will not impose a backstop,” Ball said, clarifying “backstop” means insisting on carbon pricing as previously announced (Manitoba, for example, has proposed carbon pricing at a level less than the federal government set out in its proposed generic plan).

There were two options set out for this province: go with a generic, federally imposed carbon pricing plan, or develop one to match with features customized for Newfoundland and Labrador’s economy.

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Work has continued within the provincial government on the latter, building what Ball is referring to as a “hybrid model.”

“Our plan would be much better because we have two phases: one for industry, one for domestic fuels,” he said, contrasting it to the federal approach he expects would be imposed otherwise.

“It’s less impact on our offshore, less impact on North Atlantic (the Come By Chance refinery), less impact on IOC,” he said, listing not only some of the province’s biggest greenhouse gas emitters, but some of its largest employers.

The federal approach, if it goes in that direction, would still be subject to review every five years.

While Ball suggests separate pricing for the province’s industrial emitters versus what is likely to be a tax on gas for the average Jane and Joe, there are no details being offered even now on what the two tiers of carbon pricing actually look like in terms of hard numbers.

There is no final carbon pricing legislation in the province yet. The suggestion has been any settlement between the province and the feds could result in a recall of the House of Assembly before the next scheduled sitting in November.

The premier was asked about carbon pricing at the announcement of the province’s latest offshore oil megaproject — a potential $6.8-billion development with Equinor Canada and Husky Energy of the Bay du Nord prospect about 500 kilometres offshore.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Natural Resources confirmed the province’s intention to have any carbon tax or other carbon pricing introduced applied to the oil development.

Equinor wasn’t pushing back against that idea of a carbon tax at the oil project announcement on Thursday. Unni Fjaer, a vice-president with Equinor Canada, said it’s something the company is used to factoring in, through its projects in Norway.

Also on Thursday, the Government of Ontario revealed some details of its proposed legislation for eliminating its cap-and-trade carbon pricing program. Both Ontario Premier Doug Ford and Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe have spoken out against the federal plan for pricing.

Saskatchewan filed a legal challenge in April. It insists carbon pricing is an area where the provinces, and not the federal government, would have constitutional authority to set policies. Ontario has become an intervener, supporting Saskatchewan’s position.

Meanwhile, polling by Angus Reid released Thursday shows a slip in support for the carbon pricing plans nationally compared to 2015. It’s unsurprising a new tax is not exactly welcomed with open arms, but the poll results found a slip in popular opinion between 2015 and today, with 56 per cent supporting the idea when it was a campaign promise of the federal Liberals and 45 per cent of Canadians polled supporting the same now.

The poll offers a variety of findings “by province,” although Atlantic Canadian provinces are not addressed individually. As a whole, about 45 per cent of Atlantic Canadians polled support a provincial carbon tax, according to Angus Reid, with 55 per cent opposed.

In Saskatchewan, only 12 per cent support a provincial carbon tax, while 88 per cent are opposed. Quebec is the other end of the spectrum, with 59 per cent supporting a provincial carbon tax and 41 per cent opposed.

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