Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall is heavily criticizing the federal government after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced a carbon tax Monday.
Trudeau said the Liberal government will establish a “floor price” on carbon pollution at $10 a tonne in 2018, rising to $50 a tonne by 2022.
“I cannot believe that while the country’s environment ministers were meeting on a so-called collaborative climate change plan, the prime minister stood in the House of Commons and announced a carbon tax unilaterally,” Wall said in a statement.
“The meeting is not worth the CO2 emissions it took for environment ministers to get there.”
According to Wall, Saskatchewan’s economy, which is struggling due to low oil prices and other commodity prices, will be one of the hardest hit by the new tax due to resource industries.
According to the Saskatchewan government, the carbon tax will draw more than $2.5 billion out of the provincial economy and make it a less competitive place to do business. Wall also said the government estimates the carbon tax will cost the average family $1,250 a year.
WATCH: Opposition attacks Trudeau for using a ‘sledgehammer’ solution in carbon pricing
“The level of disrespect shown by the prime minister and his government today is stunning,” Wall said.
“This is a betrayal of the statements made by the prime minister in Vancouver in March.”
During his announcement on Monday, Trudeau said provinces and territories will have a choice to put a direct price on carbon pollution or adopt a cap-and-trade system if it is stringent enough to meet or exceed the federal benchmark.
If a carbon price or cap-and-trade system is not in place by 2018, the government will set a price in that jurisdiction.
Saskatchewan Environment Minister Scott Moe was in Montreal for the environment ministers’ meeting and also said the province cannot afford a carbon tax.
“There are western Canadians that are going to compare what’s happening today to things like the National Energy Program,” Moe said.
“There’s going to be concerns in western Canada. There’s going to be concerns in our province as well.”
Back in July, Wall said the government could constitutionally challenge any attempt by a federal government to impose a tax on a government Crown (corporation) like SaskPower or SaskEnergy.
Moe said the government is now looking at what its opportunities are.
Wall said this is the wrong conversation in Canada.
“The national focus on carbon pricing holds the lowest potential for reducing emissions, while potentially doing the greatest harm to the Canadian economy,” Wall said.
“We produce less than two per cent of global GHG emissions. Whatever impact the federal carbon tax will have on Canada’s emissions, global GHG emissions will continue to rise because of the developing world’s reliance on coal-fired electricity. Canada can make an important contribution in the battle against climate change by developing made-in-Canada solutions in areas like power production, transportation, natural resource development, manufacturing and construction.”
Saskatchewan NDP environment critic Cathy Sproule said the federal government shouldn’t have bypassed the provinces.
However, she added pricing carbon is part of the future. She said Saskatchewan had the chance to be a leader in pricing carbon and should be more proactive.
“We’ve been calling on that since they implemented the bill in 2009, but they haven’t had the courage to implement that system.”
The NDP will be asking questions about Saskatchewan’s carbon future when the legislature reconvenes on Oct. 19.
Sproule said Saskatchewan can’t isolate itself from the rest of Canada on this issue.
“They’re not wanting to deal with the reality that’s facing us. They didn’t do it when times were good, and now the premier is hiding behind the fact that times aren’t so good in the oil sector, so he seems to not want to move forward at all,” Sproule said.
With files from David Baxter