October 18, 2016 1:41 pm
Updated: October 18, 2016 8:41 pm

Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall outlines climate change plan as alternative to Trudeau’s carbon tax

WATCH ABOVE: Usually the premier uses the Regina Chamber of Commerce Luncheon to deliver a state of the province address. This year he changed things up and rolled out what he calls an alternative to the federal carbon tax. Our provincial affairs reporter David Baxter was there and has more on Wall's pitc

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Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall released a climate change plan Tuesday that he is calling an alternative approach to the recently announced carbon price.

During a speech at the Regina and District Chamber of Commerce luncheon, Wall outlined his plan, which includes “redeploying” $2.65 billion Ottawa has earmarked for developing countries go to an existing $2-billion federal low-carbon economy trust.

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Earlier this month, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced his government’s plan for a minimum carbon price. The plan is to set a national “floor price” on carbon at $10 a tonne in 2018 that would increase to $50 a tonne by 2022.

Provinces have to meet or exceed that “floor price” either through a direct price on carbon or a cap-and-trade system.

On Tuesday, Wall released Saskatchewan’s White Paper on Climate Change.

“There are three approaches we can take to fighting climate change – adaptation, innovation and taxation,” Wall said in a statement.

“Of the three, a carbon tax will do the most harm to the economy while having the least positive impact on reducing emissions.”

Wall said technology, like Saskatchewan’s carbon capture and storage (CCS) project at Boundary Dam, is a better alternative as there are 2,400 new coal-fired power plants being planned or under construction around the world, according to a study released at the Paris climate change summit last year.

Wall’s plan includes:

    • Calling on the federal government to double funding for climate change adaptation research, planning and infrastructure, targeted specifically at areas affected by the impact of climate change, like northern communities.
    • Calling on the federal government to redeploy its $2.65-billion, five-year commitment to developing countries to deal with climate change by adding it to the existing $2-billion federal Low Carbon Economy Trust and use that funding for research and innovation in Canada to reduce emissions worldwide, with technologies like CCS and small nuclear reactors.

    “We’ve made that initial investment with some success. I just think we would be better off developing that technology here, where we have those capacities and making them available to the third world,” Wall elaborated.

    • Supporting the Crop Development Centre and the Global Institute for Food Security in Saskatchewan as they work on new crop varieties that are better able to withstand climate change.
    • Partnering with the federal government through SaskPower and the International CCS Knowledge Centre to develop CCS technology for coal plants to enable post-combustion technology and securing recognition for investments made by the people of Saskatchewan through SaskPower in CCS technology.
    • Increasing SaskPower’s renewables like wind and solar to 50 per cent of its generating capacity by 2030.
    • Pushing for recognition of emission-reducing carbon offsets, like hydro exports from B.C., Manitoba and Quebec, and the carbon stored in Canada’s vast forests, wetlands and farmland.
    • When the resource economy strengthens, moving ahead with plans for a fund supported by a levy on large emitters, with the fund’s expenditures limited to new technologies and innovation to reduce GHGs and not for general revenue.

    “Saskatchewan people want to contribute to this country economically and in every way, including the fight against climate change,” Wall said.

    “But we will defend our interests. We will defend our economy that pays for the quality of life we want for all Saskatchewan people and we will fight for our interests, in the court of public opinion and if need be, in the courts of the land.”

    Since the carbon tax was announced, Wall has spoken against it frequently, saying he is considering taking Ottawa to the Supreme Court.

    READ MORE: Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall willing to take carbon fight to Supreme Court

    Caitlin Workman, spokeswoman for federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna, said the federal government is reviewing the White Paper and that they are attacking climate change with adaptation and innovation.

    “That’s why our government is investing in green infrastructure to help Canadian communities and families cope with the effects of climate change they are already feeling. Saskatchewan has been an active participant in the Working Group on Adaptation and Climate Resilience and supported the key foundational and priority areas for action we’re working on together.” Workman said in an email.

    Workman also said Members of Parliament have visited the CCS facility in Saskatchewan, met with farmers and scientists in the agricultural sector and discussed clean technology improvements.

    She finished by saying pricing pollution helps spur innovation, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and give businesses incentives to create jobs.

    “We know each province’s economic reality is different. That’s why each province has the flexibility to use the revenues from a price on pollution to put resources where they need it most, be it through tax cuts, incentives for business, or support for specific sectors,” Workman said.

    “That’s why our government supports a swath of measures, like investment in infrastructure and innovation, like pricing pollution, to grow a cleaner, stronger economy. What Saskatchewan has outlined today and what we have proposed are not mutually exclusive.‎”

    Jim Farney, University of Regina political science associate professor, said that pitching some of these ideas to the federal government can be used as a bargaining chip for Saskatchewan’s carbon tax. However, he said it can be an uphill battle.

    “[Carbon tax] isn’t one of those things where you need all the provinces on board,” Farney said.

    “Saskatchewan, even plus Newfoundland and Nova Scotia, you’re not talking about enough economic and political weight to say this plan will not work if these guys have to be forced into it.”

    Farney added that the only way he could see more provinces getting on board is if they banded together on other federally imposed issues like changes to the
    Health Accord.

    He also posted on Facebook earlier today saying farmers, workers and businesses are all uniting against a forced federal carbon tax that would do “serious irreparable harm to our economy, and bleed out jobs to other jurisdictions without a carbon price, like the United States, Saudi Arabia and Russia.”

    Opposition Leader Trent Wotherspoon said the Saskatchewan NDP opposes any plan imposed by Ottawa but also said Wall throwing “Twitter tantrums” doesn’t help carbon talks.

    With files from David Baxter

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