New Brunswick Tories want Liberals to join call to scrap carbon tax

Click to play video: 'N.B. Tories want Liberals to join call to scrap carbon tax'
N.B. Tories want Liberals to join call to scrap carbon tax
The New Brunswick government has tabled a motion calling for the federal carbon pricing system to be abolished. They’re hoping to see support from opposition parties, but the provincial Liberals are taking a different position on the issue. Silas Brown reports – Mar 20, 2024

The New Brunswick government has introduced a motion calling on the federal government to scrap its carbon pricing system.

The motion was introduced by energy minister Mike Holland and comes as six other provinces have called for carbon pricing to be abolished and after New Brunswick Liberal Leader Susan Holt called for the scheduled increase on April 1 to be paused.

Holland says he would like to see the Liberals vote with the government on the motion.

“If a carbon tax is worthy to be paused because of what it negatively does to New Brunswickers then it should certainly be considered for elimination,” he said.

Holland said the current system fails to account for the lack of alternatives to driving in the province, placing an unfair burden on New Brunswickers.

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“When you take a national policy and you don’t have regional variances for it to take into consideration the differences you would face from one end of the country to the other, you’re going to get unintended consequences,” he said.

Speaking to reporters Holt maintains that her call to pause the increase isn’t a policy reversal, pointing out that her provincial party hasn’t had much to say about the yearly increases to the fuel tax.

The price on carbon set to rise by about three cents to around 17 cents per litre of gasoline on April 1. The system also include quarterly rebates to households.

But Holt said her position is based on the provincial government’s failure to act to address cost of living in the province.

The Liberals have called for the provincial portion of HST to taken off of power bills and for the province to scrap the “carbon adjuster,” a fuel charge that allows refineries and gasoline suppliers to pass the price of complying with federal clean fuel standards onto consumers.

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The charge fluctuates, but is adding just over three cents to the price of gas as of Wednesday. The Liberals introduced their own motion Wednesday calling for it to be repealed.

“We have been calling on them for months and months and months … to do things that would actually make people’s lives more affordable and they have refused at every turn. So we have lost faith that this government is acting the best interest of New Brunswickers,” she said.

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Where the governing PCs and the opposition Liberals do agree, however, is that the rebates aren’t sufficient to offset the cost of the carbon tax. A family of four will receive $760 in rebates this year, while individuals will see $380.

An analysis from the Parliamentary Budget Officer, an independent budget watchdog, found that the majority of people in six out of seven province under the federal system get back more than they pay.

Click to play video: 'Political science professor on carbon pricing pushback'
Political science professor on carbon pricing pushback

But Holt says that the rebates don’t do much for people living paycheque-to-paycheque since they come “after the fact.” Like Holland, she added that people in her riding of Bathurst East-Nipisiguit- St. Idisore don’t have access to alternatives to emitting forms of transportation. However, she placed the responsibility for that fact at the feet of the provincial government.

“The alternatives aren’t there for people to choose differently,” she said.

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“With alternatives not available, incentives to change behaviour not available, this increase to the carbon tax comes at a time when New Brunswickers can’t handle it. I think we imagined we’d be in a better place by now.”

Meanwhile, Holland disputed the analysis from the PBO, saying that the numbers he’d been provided “from other sources within government” showed that the claim that most people get back more than they pay doesn’t hold up.

However, when asked for the information to which Holland was referring, a spokesperson provided the PBO analysis that says most people get back more than they pay. The report does provide an economic analysis that suggests that over time carbon pricing could restrain the growth of household income through its impact on economic investment. It also admits it doesn’t look to take into account the economic costs of climate change itself.

Meanwhile Green Leader David Coon called the debate a “red-herring,” pointing to the PBO report and the opinion of many economists that the carbon tax has little impact on inflation.

“It’s not an affordability issue, so there’s no point in changing the schedule for the carbon tax regime,” he said.

“The people who are most affected by affordability concerns get the most money back because they don’t have much of a carbon footprint. It’s just become a real political issue and not an actual people issue.”

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