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Saskatchewan not paying federal carbon price is ‘immoral’: Guilbeault

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Saskatchewan’s decision to not pay federal carbon price is ‘immoral’, Guilbeault says
Saskatchewan's decision to not pay federal carbon price is 'immoral', Guilbeault says – Mar 5, 2024

Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault is calling the Saskatchewan government’s decision not to pay the federal carbon price “immoral.”

The minister says it’s one thing to disagree on policy, but another to “start breaking federal laws.”

“If Premier Scott Moe decides he wants to start breaking federal laws then measures will be taken. We can’t let that happen. What if tomorrow someone decides they want to break other laws, criminal laws? What would happen then?” Guilbeault said at a press conference in Montreal on Monday.

“It’s irresponsible and frankly immoral on his part. We can have disagreement about things like climate change, but to be so reckless is unspeakable really.”

On Feb. 28, the Saskatchewan government announced it would not remit what is owed on home heating bills from the Crown corporation SaskEnergy to the CRA.

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The province already said it planned to stop collecting the carbon price on home heating bills in response to the three-year pause of that same levy for home heating oil. While the measure applies nationally, its been criticized for disproportionately benefitting Atlantic Canada.

When Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the pause in late October, he was flanked by members of the Liberal’s Atlantic caucus.

The federal pause includes plans to work with the provinces to develop programs to help subsidize the switch to heat pumps for homes on heating oil.

Speaking with Global News at a nuclear energy conference in Ottawa on Feb. 29, Saskatchewan’s minister responsible for SaskEnergy Dustin Duncan, said it’s a matter of fairness.

“Ultimately, the prime minister can in our view do the right thing and just extend the exemption to the rest of the country for the three years. That’s all we’re asking for. We’re not asking for any anything more than anybody else has received,” Duncan said.

Click to play video: 'Saskatchewan government won’t remit carbon levy to Ottawa'
Saskatchewan government won’t remit carbon levy to Ottawa

After SaskEnergy stopped collecting the carbon price on home heating in January, the province said it still had to decide whether it would withhold all associated funds or pay the CRA out of government coffers.

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The latter was chosen, and the Saskatchewan government says it registered the provincial government with the CRA as the supplier of natural gas within the province, instead of SaskEnergy, to protect the crown corp’s board and employees from liability.

The CRA says it can’t confirm who the registered supplier of natural gas is in Saskatchewan for privacy reasons.

At this point, the federal government has not announced any consequences for Saskatchewan not remitting the carbon price but signaled it could affect rebates households receive.

“This year, a family of four in Saskatchewan is supposed to receive up to $1,800 in Canada Carbon Rebates. If the Government of Saskatchewan does not abide by federal law, this direct support to Saskatchewanians could be at risk,” said Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland’s press secretary, Katherine Cuplinskas, in an emailed statement.

Saskatchewan has a long history of opposing the carbon price, most notably taking part in the Supreme Court challenge on the policy. Ultimately, the court upheld Ottawa’s right to establish a national minimum pollution price.

Duncan is not seeking re-election when Saskatchewanians go to the polls this fall, but said his understanding is that any legal consequences from this would follow him into private life and not transfer to whomever is his ministerial successor.

“I’ve been elected for 18 years. I’ve been in the cabinet in Saskatchewan for the last 15 years. I’ve never had to obtain personal legal counsel until now, so it’s a serious matter,” Duncan said.

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