Mistakes suspected in Sask. government commissioned carbon tax report

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WATCH: A 2017 report got new eyes in the Sask. legislature on Tuesday, suggesting the economic impact of a carbon tax is far less than the government predicted – May 14, 2019

The Opposition NDP is accusing the provincial government of “burying” a report they commissioned on the economic impact of the federal carbon tax.

The report was drafted by B.C.-based firm Navius Research Inc., and is dated Oct. 13, 2017. It was not released publicly and obtained by a freedom of information request from the Saskatchewan NDP.

In short, the report estimates the federal price on carbon pollution would cost the Saskatchewan economy 1.29 per cent in total GDP growth by 2030, worth about $1.2 billion.

This is a long way off from another carbon tax report commissioned by the province.

On June 27, 2018, the University of Regina’s Institute for Energy, Environment and Sustainable Communities (IEESC) put out a report, which says the carbon tax will shrink Saskatchewan’s GDP by 2.43 per cent once it reaches $50 per tonne of CO2 in 2022.

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The cumulative dollar figure attached to that GDP drop by 2030 is $16 billion.

READ MORE: Study predicts carbon tax could cost Sask. GDP $16B by 2030

“When we now see that they looked at those reports, saw two very different ones and chose to hide one and present another, and then the one that they chose to present they chose to misrepresent in a pretty substantial way,” Opposition Leader Ryan Meili said.

“That to me, says they’re playing politics instead of actually trying to find the evidence and find the best policies.”

Saskatchewan Environment Minister Dustin Duncan said the ministry took issue with some of the methodologies Navius used. This included issues with mining data, like combining all industries and not separating out sectors like potash.

Duncan added Navius offered to redo their calculations using the province’s preferred data, but it would have cost $1,000 to $2,000 per person, per day and the ministry did not see the justification in the cost.

“By that time we had decided that we were going to pursue the Prairie Resilience plan and we felt like it wasn’t necessary,” Duncan said.

The framework for Saskatchewan’s climate plan, Prairie Resilience, was first released in Dec. 2017 and fleshed out in Aug. 2018.

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READ MORE: Saskatchewan unveils climate change plan; will not submit to Ottawa for assessment

Duncan said the Navius report will be made available to those that request it going forward.

Suspicion of mistakes

Since the IEESC report’s release, the Saskatchewan government has used the potential $16 billion loss in their opposition to the federal plan.

A June, 2018 press release caught the attention of Navius researcher Jotham Peters. He wrote a critique in January of the IEESC study and said the numbers don’t add up.

“This kind of GDP contraction would be unprecedented in any developed countries in recent times,” Peters wrote in regard to the 2.43 per cent GDP reduction.

“In Canada, we would need to go back to the 1930s Great Depression to see an equivalent.”

READ MORE: Critics say Saskatchewan carbon tax study isn’t credible

When calculating the change in GDP, which IEESC said was -2.43 per cent, the largest GDP component change is -1.1 per cent. This raised questions with Peters.

“If a carbon tax indeed reduces GDP by 2.43 per cent, but none of the components change by more than 1.1 per cent, you have a big red flag,” Peters wrote.

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Peters could not discuss certain details about the report the Saskatchewan government commissioned due to a confidentiality clause in their contract.

When asked about his confidence in the IEESC study with these concerns raised, Duncan said he is confident that both reports show the federal carbon tax would cost Saskatchewan’s economy more than Prairie Resilience.

“I’m certainly confident in the fact that a carbon tax if it was pursued by the province of Saskatchewan, or now imposed on the province of Saskatchewan will cause more economic harm than the approach we have taken, and I have no cause to doubt the work done by the U of R,” Duncan said.

Global News has reached out to the U of R for comment, but has not yet received a response.

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