Carbon price increase is ‘inhumane,’ Alberta premier tells committee

Click to play video: 'Carbon price increase is ‘inhumane,’ Danielle Smith tells House of Commons committee'
Carbon price increase is ‘inhumane,’ Danielle Smith tells House of Commons committee
Alberta Premier Danielle Smith and New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs made their cases against the carbon tax at a House of Commons committee ahead of the April 1 increase. – Mar 28, 2024

Alberta Premier Danielle Smith says the upcoming federal carbon price increase is “inhumane.”

“The so-called solution of the federal government is to increase the carbon tax on something that is life or death for Albertans in the extreme cold of winter,” Smith told the House of Commons operations committee.

“I will say that is inhumane. It begs the question, how far will this government go to make life even more difficult and expensive?”

In January, a polar vortex brought -40 C temperatures to Alberta, with wind chill making it feel like -50.

Smith went on to call for a similar carbon price pause for all home heating methods, as was put in place by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in October for home heating oil — a move critics say disproportionately benefits Atlantic Canada.

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Both Smith and New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs appeared before the committee at the invitation of Conservative chair Kelly McCauley, saying that because the carbon price deals with a fiscal policy, it’s appropriate to have this discussion in the estimates study.

On April 1, the carbon price will increase from $65 per tonne to $80. This means the federal fuel price of gasoline will climb from $0.14 to almost $0.18 per litre.

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe appeared at the committee on Wednesday.

Click to play video: 'Trudeau accuses Conservatives of misleading Canadians on carbon rebate for ‘narrow political gain’'
Trudeau accuses Conservatives of misleading Canadians on carbon rebate for ‘narrow political gain’


Liberal, NDP and Bloc Quebecois members questioned the move, and voted in favour of a motion to block the chair from calling meetings and bringing forward witnesses without prior consultation.

Ontario Liberal MP Irek Kusmierczyk said these meetings amount to a political stunt, in line with the Conservative push against Monday’s increase.

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Higgs argues that instead of having a carbon price, Canada should focus on exporting more natural gas to displace coal power generation in an effort to reduce emissions globally.

“The point is let’s have a realistic plan to transition through this time period but let’s use our resources to pay for it rather than everybody’s pocket,” Higgs told the House of Commons operations committee.

Speaking at a daycare announcement in Surrey, B.C., Trudeau reiterated comments he made Wednesday, accusing Conservative premiers and politicians of “misleading” Canadians on the carbon price.

“It’s concrete action to fight climate change at a time where we’re seeing the impacts of extreme weather events, floods, fires, droughts,” Trudeau said.

Click to play video: 'Federal carbon tax increase set for April 1st'
Federal carbon tax increase set for April 1st

“Conservatives are ideologically opposed to fighting climate change, to making polluters, even big polluters pay. And we put a price on pollution that makes sure people are looking for ways to reduce their emissions.  And families, particularly low-income and middle-income families, do better with more money in their pockets.”

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On Tuesday, Trudeau sent a letter to the seven premiers calling for a pause on the carbon price increase to come up with their own pollution pricing systems if they don’t like the federal program.

Both Alberta and New Brunswick have their own industrial emission pricing schemes that meet the federal backstop. Higgs and Smith both said their concern is with the consumer fuel charge.

New Brunswick Liberals Wayne Long and Jenica Atwin brought Trudeau’s question on a provincial plan to Higgs at the committee.

“It’s developing natural gas and that (liquified natural gas) plant you and I both live close to, and say we can ship it to Europe and shutdown coal plants. That’s the plan, it’s simple,” Higgs replied.

Natural gas is less emission intensive than coal, but still produces carbon dioxide as a fossil fuel.

Click to play video: 'Carbon tax hike: Premiers Danielle Smith, Blaine Higgs pressed on alternative climate plan'
Carbon tax hike: Premiers Danielle Smith, Blaine Higgs pressed on alternative climate plan

Kusmiercyzk brought up Smith appearing at an “axe the tax” rally with Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre the night before in Edmonton.

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He asked if it was about the federal fuel charge or Alberta’s $0.04 per litre fuel tax increase, also set to take effect on Monday.

“The federal government charges $0.35 in gasoline taxes, we charge $0.13. Our $0.13 goes to build roads. Maybe if your environment minister would let you build roads maybe some of yours would go to build roads as well,” Smith said.

“We do, we do. Thousands of them every year,” Kusmiercyzk replied.

“Well, he certainly doesn’t seem to want to anymore, and the $0.17 cents as we know will not go to build roads” Smith said, referring to the federal fuel charge being paid back in quarterly rebates to households.

“Premier, I appreciate you not wanting to answer the sensitive question of raising the gas tax by $0.04 in your province,” Kusmiercyzk concluded.

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