Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna doesn’t think the federal government’s blanket carbon tax will drive business out of the country. In an interview on BNN, McKenna defended the plan, arguing that it is not a case of us versus them, but rather an opportunity to create new jobs.
“It’s not businesses pitted against government,” she said Friday. “The environment and the economy go together and this is going to create more economic opportunities, more jobs.”
Ottawa’s plan calls for emissions to be taxed at $10 per metric tonne in 2018, rising to $50 per tonne in 2022, and only applies to jurisdictions which have not implemented their own carbon plan. In spite of industry and western criticism of the plan, McKenna said Canada’s climate change policy is not deterring energy firms from deploying capital in this country.
“We are absolutely open for business,” she said. “When I was in China, they said, ‘We want your solutions for clean air, clean water, and also how you develop your natural resources.’”
Despite McKenna’s assertion, her plan is getting a frosty reception in some parts of the oil patch.
“It’s different to start a company nowadays,” Paramount Resources Founder Clay Riddell told BNN at the Canadian Business Hall of Fame induction ceremony Thursday, adding his one-word reaction to taxing carbon is “Yikes!”.
“It’s a continual chore to weave your way through the [government] regulations,” Riddell said.
That sentiment is being echoed in some segments of the investment community.
“Global markets look at this new policy approach with fear and choose to invest elsewhere” wrote Canoe Financial Senior Portfolio Manager Rafi Tahmazian in an email to BNN.
“Increasing taxes in a shrinking economy is not something I view as an investable jurisdiction. I assure you foreign investors feel the same way and view Canada as such.”
Some of the loudest criticism has been voiced by Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall, who is threatening to sue the federal government if it imposes a blanket carbon pricing policy. Speaking to reporters in Regina on Thursday, Wall described the white paper issued by his federal counterparts as a “ransom note” that unfairly punishes resource-reliant provinces at a time when both energy and potash prices remain at depressed levels.
Wall appears to have found an ally in Alberta Progressive Conservative Leader Jason Kenney, who lent his voice to the cacophony and pledged to join Wall’s legal battle if the Alberta PC party unseats Premier Rachel Notley in the next Alberta election.
In response, McKenna invited Wall to put together his own carbon pricing scheme if he doesn’t want Parliament Hill to impose its will on Saskatchewan.
“I’m all for provinces figuring out what works best for them in terms of how they price pollution, but every province needs to be doing it -- it’s a matter of fairness,” she said. “I actually don’t know what to say. I’ve probably had about a dozen meetings with my Saskatchewan counterpart, I just met with some Saskatchewan businesses.”
“I don’t really understand this approach. I think there’s an opportunity to work together for Saskatchewan to design a system that works.”