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Sask. environment minister, federal government continue war of words

(From left to right) Saskatchewan's Environment Minister Dustin Duncan, Premier Scott Moe and Attorney General Don Morgan respond to the federal carbon tax. David Baxter/Global News

Scott Moe has called the carbon tax “a shell game” and an effort from Justin Trudeau’s Liberals to “buy your vote,” but tensions between the Saskatchewan Party and the federal government reached a boiling point earlier this week.

Environment Minister Dustin Duncan called out federal public safety minister, and Regina MP, Ralph Goodale by name at a provincial press conference on Tuesday in response to the carbon tax, saying:

“[He] said that farmers are exempt. He’s only talking about farm fuel…to me it just shows Ralph Goodale is divorced from the economic reality of Saskatchewan and from how farming actually operates in Saskatchewan,” Duncan said.

“We are only 1.6 per cent of the global emissions. Even if we reduce our emissions to zero, in Saskatchewan today, global climate change will continue. We need to prepare our communities to be resilient to the changes of climate change, and carbon tax doesn’t change that.”

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Friday morning, Duncan and Goodale shared a conversation at a SaskPower funding announcement.

“We will always have disagreements with federal governments regardless of who the federal government is. Federal governments will have disagreements with whoever [the] provincial government is. That doesn’t change,” Duncan said of his remarks on Tuesday.

READ MORE: Carbon tax ignores reality for farmers: Sask. agricultural producers

“I think what you heard was a lot of frustration…we’re going to call balls and strikes as we see them, so areas where we can agree, we’ll agree but our job is to defend the interests of the province and to stand up for Saskatchewan,” he continued.

The announcement was $4.75 million of federal funding to help modernize the province’s electrical grid; something Duncan said demonstrated there was still a working relationship between the two governments.

“I think this shows where there is agreement and where there are things we can work together on. We most certainly want to work with the Federal government,” Duncan said.

The new found harmony didn’t extend to the federal carbon tax, or Saskatchewan’s climate change plan Prairie Resilience, where both Goodale and Duncan continued to argue their case.

“All along the message from some has been that if you don’t accept a carbon tax that you don’t have a plan for climate action, or you don’t believe climate action is necessary – and that certainly has never been our position,” Duncan stated.

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READ MORE: Economy, healthcare and climate change – Sask. gov’t leaders lay out session priorities

“We have worked very hard to have a national plan that takes into account the local circumstances, the local sensitivities, the special issues that arise province by province. In the case of Saskatchewan we’ve endeavored to accommodate them in every way possible,” Goodale countered.

Goodale noted the inclusion and continuation of Saskatchewan’s heavy-emitter plan in the federal legislation, and mentioned the exemption on farm fuels – the same exemption Duncan lambasted the Goodale for on Tuesday.

The federal minister argued there were other options available to rural residents and farmers, specifically noting the 10 per cent additional rural rebate and the $300 million the feds set aside for small businesses; a category agriculture would be included in.

“It constitutes a very large exemption. Is it totally exempted? No, we never said it was, but there are major portions of the emissions from agriculture that are explicitly exempted in order to recognize the sensitivity and importance of that sector,” Goodale said.

“We don’t pretend this transition is simple or easy, but what we’ve tried to devise is a national system that will work well for the whole country, and one in which consumers and households can actually be dollars ahead,” he concluded.

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