When the Alberta NDP announced its climate leadership plan in late 2015, which included a new carbon tax, Premier Rachel Notley made it clear every dollar raised would be recycled back into the economy.
One of the ways it is doing so is through energy efficiency programs. On Tuesday, the government announced millions of dollars will be put towards rebates for the installation of more efficient hot water systems, windows and insulation. There’s also a program to help people install solar panels, and they’re even giving away free light bulbs.
All of these programs are just a drop in the bucket of the more than $5 billion the government expects to collect from carbon pricing over the next three years.
In its 2017 budget, the NDP outlined how it intends to divide the money. The largest item is the household rebates for low- and middle-income Albertans, totalling more than $1.5 billion over three years. For green infrastructure projects, a further $1.3 billion will be spent.
The next-highest item is labelled “other initiatives,” at $998 million. The government says this money will be put towards things like renewable energy and innovation and technology, but the details have yet to be worked out.
“We still have some work to do,” said Environment Minister Shannon Phillips. “With stakeholders, particularly in the energy industry, and in particular with the oilsands advisory group, on what our innovation and technology framework looks like.”
With Albertans already paying the tax, the opposition believes it’s time to see how exactly the government intends to spend this last billion.
“It could be a boondoggle in the making,” said Wildrose Party leader Brian Jean, who has said repeatedly he would scrap the tax entirely if elected into government.
“It certainly appears that they might be writing this stuff on the back of a napkin.”
Not all the opposition parties are opposed to a carbon tax. Alberta Party leader Greg Clark supports the idea of one, he just shares the concerns about how the government is rolling it out.
“It worries me the government is just going to roll this out in a way that is politically advantageous, rather than a way that makes sense,” he said Tuesday afternoon.
Clark would like to see the tax be truly revenue neutral, and not put towards so many vague programs.
“I’m worried that the NDP has made a big mistake here and turned Albertans against a carbon tax which could stimulate investment in the province, stimulate innovation and address climate change.”
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