The Trudeau government’s decision to introduce a minimum price for carbon pollution quickly drew the ire of several premiers yesterday, but upset provincial leaders will have little choice but to go along with the plan, say experts.
Trudeau said provinces will be required to put a price on carbon by 2018, at a minimum of $10 per tonne that will increase to $50 by 2022. He also gave the provinces two options for implementing that price: a carbon tax or cap-and-trade system.
If a province or territory fails to do so Ottawa will impose its own price and return the revenue to the provinces.
Environment Minister Catherine McKenna defended the announcement on Tuesday saying the federal government will continue to work with the provinces on the issue.
“This is not punitive,” McKenna told reporters in Ottawa. “This is actually a huge opportunity to grow the economy, to position ourselves for the future to tackle climate change.”
Several provinces were furious with the announcement, including three environment ministers who walked out of the federal-provincial climate talks being held in Montreal. Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall slammed the announcement calling it a “betrayal.”
WATCH: Opposition criticizes Liberal carbon plan
Mel Cappe, a professor at the School of Public Policy and Governance at University of Toronto, said the provinces upset with the Liberal plan will have little recourse.
“The feds have the legal authority to impose a tax on carbon,” Cappe told Global News. “If anybody wants to take the feds to court about their jurisdiction on this I think they are going to lose and lose big.”
Cappe was also critical of the Wall government who called the carbon pricing plan an “ultimatum,” adding that any money raised by the tax will be handed back to the provinces.
So what do the provinces think?
Ontario, Quebec, Alberta and British Columbia already have carbon-pricing plans, and were largely supporting of the federal announcement on Monday.
Alberta’s NDP premier Rachel Notley said her government would agree to the $50 price for 2022 if the federal government approves the construction of an oil sands pipeline.
“Albertans have contributed very generously for many years to national initiatives to help other regions address economic challenges,” Notley said in a written statement.
Under the Liberal plan, provinces’ that have their own carbon plan must meet the federal minimum price or Ottawa will impose a tax that makes up the difference and return the revenue to the province.
WATCH BELOW: Alberta Premier Rachel Notley sounds off on Ottawa’s plan to impose a price on carbon. Tom Vernon reports.
Nova Scotia, Saskatchewan and Newfoundland and Labrador were the most upset by the announcement, while Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister ruled out a cap-and-trade system in his province, he’s non-committal to a possible carbon tax.
“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 this March. And this new tax will damage our economy.”
However, political scientist Nelson Wiseman said the Liberal government is on firm ground when it comes to imposing a carbon tax
“Wall has been attacking the feds from day one,” Wiseman said. “He sees himself as the unofficial Conservative opposition to the Trudeau government at the provincial.”
WATCH BELOW: A carbon tax is designed to reduce our use of fossil fuels, but how it works is complex. Eric Sorensen breaks down what it means for Canada.