Saskatchewan’s carbon price fight with Ottawa takes another step forward

Click to play video: 'Saskatchewan premier expecting ‘no consequences’ for not collecting the federal carbon tax'
Saskatchewan premier expecting ‘no consequences’ for not collecting the federal carbon tax
Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe said on Thursday, 'We decided not to collect the carbon tax for natural gas and now electricity because the federal government made an exception for Atlantic Canada with heating oil, so what's fair is fair.' – Nov 30, 2023

The Saskatchewan government says it has officially been listed as the sole distributor for natural gas in the province, as part of its bid to remove the federal carbon price from home heating bills.

This is in response to the three-year pause on the extra charge for home heating oil that was announced in October 2023. While Ottawa stresses that this is a national pause, many critics say the move disproportionately benefits Atlantic Canada, where heating oil is more common.

Saskatchewan residents stopped seeing a charge for the carbon price on their heating bills as of Jan. 1.

“The government of Saskatchewan has received confirmation from the Canada Revenue Agency that the provincial Crown has been registered as the registered distributor of natural gas in the province of Saskatchewan for the purposes of part one of the Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act, and SaskEnergy has received confirmation that they have been de-registered as the registered distributor,” Saskatchewan government spokesperson Matthew Glover said in a statement.

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An amendment was passed late last year with Saskatchewan NDP support to list the province as the natural gas distributor instead of the Crown utility, SaskEnergy.

Crown Investment Minister Dustin Duncan said the move was made to safeguard SaskEnergy leadership and employees from potential fines or other penalties for not collecting the carbon charge, a violation of the Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act.

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The deadline for Saskatchewan to remit the carbon price on residential home heating for January is the end of February.

On Tuesday, Statistics Canada reported that Saskatchewan saw a 26.6 per cent decline in year-over-year natural gas costs after “the collection of the carbon levy ceased in January 2024,” describing that as a “contributing” factor to the decline.

“If they are actually serious about fighting inflation, the federal government needs to remove the carbon tax on everyone and everything,” Duncan said in a press release.

“This shows how much impact it has, just removing it on home heating in one province. Imagine the significant impact it would have on gas prices, grocery prices and everything else we produce and transport in Canada if the federal government scrapped the carbon tax.”

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The statement from Glover says a final decision on whether or not to remit the charge will be made in advance of the Feb. 29 deadline.

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The two main options for Saskatchewan are to either not pay and face potential fines or other penalties, or pay what is owed from government coffers.

An interview request for Duncan was declined.

In 2022, SaskEnergy remitted $172 million to Ottawa through the fuel charge when it was $50 per tonne.

The carbon price is set to increase to $80 per tonne from $65 per tonne on April 1.

The fact Saskatchewan has a Crown utility supplying home heating means it has more room to make decisions like this that doesn’t exist in other provinces opposed to the federal carbon price.

In Alberta, for example, Premier Danielle Smith said in November 2023 that she couldn’t take similar action due to private companies supplying home heating and she wouldn’t ask them to break the law.

Global News has reached out to the Canada Revenue Agency for confirmation of the listing change.

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