On Friday, Feb. 1, United Conservative Party Leader Jason Kenney was speaking at an event in Calgary, urging the NDP to call the election, when he brought up his opposition’s history.
“They spent over $9 million, for example, on ads telling Albertans why they should support the NDP’s carbon tax,” Kenney said.
“The same carbon tax they hid from Albertans in the last election.”
But did the NDP hide the carbon tax from Albertans ahead of the 2015 provincial election?
What’s the allegation?
“The carbon tax is the single-largest tax hike in Alberta history and was never even mentioned by the NDP during the 2015 election,” UCP spokesperson Harrison Fleming told Global News.
“A lie by omission is still a lie and the NDP no doubt knew how badly a promise to implement a carbon tax would go over with voters. So they opted to not mention it.”
“In implementing their carbon tax without a public mandate, the NDP arguably violated the Alberta Taxpayer Protection Act — if not technically in law, then in spirit.
“The NDP’s carbon tax truly is the biggest lie in Alberta political history.”
WATCH BELOW (Oct. 5, 2018): UCP leader Jason Kenney says carbon tax is the ‘biggest lie’ in Alberta history
What are the facts?
The carbon tax as a specific mechanism was not included in the NDP’s platform leading up to the 2015 election. But the party did campaign on an environmental strategy and a promise to do something to address climate change.
Before she was elected, Rachel Notley said the NDP would work with industry members and experts to establish energy and environmental standards. Notley also said she would set up a commission to review Alberta’s royalty structure.
In its 2015 platform, the NDP said it would:
- End the PCs’ “costly and ineffective Carbon Capture and Storage experiment and reinvest the 2015/16 component of this project into construction of public transit”;
- “Take leadership on the issue of climate change and make sure Alberta is part of crafting solutions with stakeholders, other provinces and the federal government. First steps will include an energy efficiency strategy and a renewable energy strategy”;
- “Establish a Resource Owners’ Rights Commission to report to the new premier and the legislature within six months on measures to promote greater processing of Alberta’s energy resources, and to ensure a full and fair return to the people of Alberta for their energy resources.”
“Kenney’s claims are false,” an NDP spokesperson told Global News. “We campaigned on taking action on climate change, something most Albertans agree is an important issue.
“We committed to phase out coal-fired electricity to reduce smog and greenhouse gas emissions and to expand cleaner, greener sources, including wind and solar and more industrial co-generation in the oil sands. We kept those promises. In 2016, we appointed a Climate Change Advisory Panel to conduct consultation and prepare recommendations to government. The panel consulted with stakeholders, Indigenous communities, Industry, and the public.”
What do experts say?
Duane Bratt, a political science professor at Mount Royal University, believes Notley didn’t mention the carbon tax specifically because the NDP hadn’t yet settled on that particular method.
“They said they were going to do something about climate change but they didn’t specify what it was going to be in the party platform for the election in 2015,” he said.
“Then they unexpectedly win the election and Rachel Notley creates a commission led by Andrew Leach, the economist at the University of Alberta, to develop a climate strategy and produce a recommendation to the cabinet.
“Leach did public hearings, worked with environmental groups, worked with energy groups, worked with Indigenous people, and crafted up a consumer-based, consumer-wide carbon tax that was adopted by the NDP.”
WATCH BELOW: The United Conservative Party says the NDP hid the Alberta carbon tax from Albertans in the 2015 election. Emily Mertz breaks down the claim and has response from both parties and an expert.
“It wasn’t like they had this plan all in place in April and they just didn’t tell people about it or campaign on it. I think they wanted to do something but they didn’t know what, and they used this process to bring it forward. So it was not hidden; they simply didn’t have a plan,” Bratt said.
“It’s a great talking point — that they hid the carbon tax — I just don’t think it holds up.”
ANALYSIS: The politics of a carbon tax
What else do I need to know?
Another big factor to consider is the federal carbon tax.
“If a province were to withdraw its own price on carbon — as we’ve seen Manitoba do, for example, or more recently, Ontario — if Alberta were to eliminate its charge on fuel then we would see, very shortly after that, the federal government come in and impose its carbon tax,” said Trevor Tombe, economics professor at the University of Calgary.
“So the question of what happens to carbon taxes in Alberta and Canada won’t be solved by Alberta’s election one way or the other; it’s going to be determined by the federal election later on in the year.”
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WATCH BELOW (Jan. 1, 2018): How much will the 2018 Alberta carbon-tax hike cost you?