Saskatchewan residents won’t have a good idea of the personal cost of a potential carbon tax until a specific policy is in place, according to a university professor.
“I would be extremely dubious of anyone who told you down to the last dollar or even the last hundred dollars how much this is going to cost,” said Jeremy Rayner, a University of Saskatchewan professor who specializes in environmental and energy policies.
“Even if we could come up with an average figure it would be meaningless for most people because the average person doesn’t really exist.”
On Monday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced his government would implement a carbon tax in provinces that don’t come up with their own pricing plan by 2018. The plan would price carbon at a minimum of $10 per tonne initially and raise $10 each year until the price reached $50 a tonne in 2022.
Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall, a vocal opponent against carbon pricing, responded by saying the province’s industry and families would be negatively impacted by the plan.
“We estimate the carbon tax will cost the average family $1,250 a year,” Wall said in a statement Monday.
“I don’t know where he gets that figure from, no doubt we’ll have a justification of it, it will be interesting to see,” Rayner said.
“I don’t say it can’t be justified, I just say it’s on the high side.”
The Saskatchewan government hasn’t provided a breakdown of Wall’s estimation, however two Crown corporations indicated their customers would pay more under the federal government’s plan.
“The proposed carbon tax will have a significant impact on power bills for our residential customers, and for the power bills of businesses that operate in our province,” SaskPower spokesperson Jonathan Tremblay said in a statement.
“Our preliminary estimates show that from now to 2030, it will impact rates by more than 20 per cent.”
SaskEnergy said an average homeowner would annually pay $53 more under the government’s 2018 carbon price and $265 more under the 2022 price. Kent Smith-Windsor, the executive director of the Saskatoon Chamber of Commerce, said the increase caused by a carbon tax “will have adverse affects on everyone, particularly those in lower income spectrums.”
“For an individual that’s struggling to look after family meals and have lights on at night, that gets pretty real for them, pretty quickly,” Smith-Windsor said.
Rayner added that residents could also see an increase in the price of anything that involves carbon emissions at some point in production. The key would be “whether the producer or the transporter is capable of passing that cost onto the consumers or whether they have to absorb it themselves,” he said.
“The object is to send a price signal to people and say you should avoid carbon intensive activities where possible.”