Alberta government hosting town halls about contentious carbon tax

File: Alberta Environment Minister Shannon Phillips.
File: Alberta Environment Minister Shannon Phillips. Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press

The Alberta government is employing a promotional blitz for its controversial carbon tax.

Environment Minister Shannon Phillips is hosting province-wide telephone town halls on Tuesday and Wednesday to provide details about the province’s Climate Leadership Plan, including the carbon tax.

“This is an opportunity for Albertans to learn more about the Climate Leadership Plan – our made-in-Alberta solution to the very real issue of climate change,” Phillips said.

“It is also a chance to hear directly from Albertans about their ideas, questions and concerns as we move together into a new era of climate leadership.”

READ MORE: How will Alberta’s carbon tax impact consumers?

The town halls will run from 7 p.m. to 8:15 p.m. on both evenings.

Critics claim the legislation will increase unemployment in Alberta, but the NDP government has said the carbon tax will create jobs and boost investment in clean energy without hurting taxpayers, while remaining revenue neutral.

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“When an economist talks about revenue neutral, what they mean is you raise a carbon tax but then you reduce something else like the income tax so that the government revenue is unaffected,” said University of Calgary Public Policy School professor Ron Kneebone.

“The NDP is talking about something different: they are saying it’s revenue neutral if we raise the tax and we spend it all that that’s somehow neutral.”

Albertans have held anti-carbon tax rallies in recent weeks, including one at the Alberta Legislature that caused controversy. The crowd chanted “lock her up” as Conservative leadership hopeful Chris Alexander spoke about Alberta Premier Rachel Notley’s energy policy.

READ MORE: Another rally held for those opposing Alberta carbon tax

Another anti-carbon tax rally took place in Calgary over the weekend.

The government’s Climate Leadership Plan advertising campaign comes at a cost of $4.5 million and will run until the end of March.

“The Climate Leadership Plan is the province’s most significant policy response in decades and will affect all Albertans,” government spokesman Kyle Ferguson said in a statement. “Albertans have been asking about what the plan means to them. Therefore government is undertaking a $4.5 million advertising campaign, running until the end of March, that will contain new information not previously available including energy efficiency grants, market access, federal actions and rural impacts. Government is committed to spending responsibly and getting the best possible results for every tax dollar, including advertising.”

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The province said $3 million of the $4.5 million has been allocated, with $450,000 being used for creative development and the rest for advertisement on television, radio, movie theatres, and online.

The carbon tax is set to take effect in the New Year.

The NDP government estimates the tax will cost an average family about $500 a year by 2018 and about $960 by 2030.

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