A UCP candidate in Medicine Hat, who said her church was asking its congregation for help with a $50,000 carbon tax bill on Sunday, has corrected her claim.
Brooks-Medicine Hat candidate Michaela Glasgo amended her claim Monday afternoon, saying the church’s carbon tax is estimated to be around $5,400 in 2019.
UCP Leader Jason Kenney retweeted both Glasgo’s original claim and her correction.
Response online was quick to point out that, if the church was facing a $50,000 carbon tax bill for heating the church with natural gas, that would be the equivalent of heating 244 homes, or about 33,000 gigajoules.
A member of Medicine Hat’s religious community responded to Glasgo’s original claim.
Rev. David Pollard told Global News that, thanks to the size of the congregation at Fifth Avenue Memorial United Church, the $2,500 carbon tax was “a drop in the bucket” of the church’s finances.
In her clarification, Glasgo said the unnamed Medicine Hat church expected to have an increase in fixed operational costs of $50,000 in 2019 from 2017.
In an earlier Facebook post, Glasgo refused to name the church in which she heard the original claim.
“[T]he church is non-partisan, and this was in no way a political attack or statement by the church,” Glasgo wrote.
On Monday afternoon, the Hillcrest Evangelical Missionary church issued a statement to Global News saying the $50,000 figure came from a service on Sunday in which Pastor Steve Pahl shared information about the church’s increased operating costs. Pahl cited a carbon tax of $5,443 as being one of many sources of the increase in costs.
“For us, the carbon tax is not a political issue,” Pahl said. “We are more than happy to pay our bills, whatever they are and need to be. Many people in our congregation are concerned about environmental issues.
“For us, the conversation is more about how we as a church need to adapt our budget to reflect the current costs.”
The UCP also issued a statement Monday afternoon.
“A $5,400-carbon tax bill is not inconsequential, especially for a non-profit organization,” the statement reads. “The fact remains that the NDP carbon tax has made it harder for everything from faith groups to seniors centers (SIC) to remain in operation.”
Glasgo did not respond to requests for comment at the time of publication.
The carbon tax was introduced in 2017 by Premier Rachel Notley’s government. It taxes gasoline to drive as well as natural gas to heat homes and businesses. Rebates are available for low and middle-income earners.
Kenney has signalled it will be the centrepiece issue of their campaign in the upcoming spring election.
Kenney says Notley never campaigned on introducing the tax when she won government in 2015. He adds that the tax only hurts workers and families while failing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and is symbolic of an interventionist, misguided NDP.
He has promised the first task of a new UCP government would be to repeal the carbon tax.
Environment ministry spokesman Matt Dykstra, in a statement, said the Glasgo contretemps speaks to a larger concern with the UCP.
“All candidates for public office and their leaders have a responsibility to check the facts and think critically before sharing information on social media,” said Dykstra.
“Time and time again Jason Kenney and the UCP have shown a blatant disregard for the truth in pursuit of pushing misinformation to stir anger.
“It’s a divisive, Trump-esque political strategy unbecoming of someone who is seeking to hold the highest public office in our province.”
Christine Myatt, spokesperson for the UCP, said the NDP should not cast stones.
“I would point out that the NDP wilfully shares misinformation about the UCP on a regular basis,” said Myatt in a statement.
“Ms. Glasgo made an honest error and had no intention of misleading the public.”
— With files from Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press