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‘We’re going to continue this fight’: Alberta Justice Minister vows to battle federal carbon tax

UCP vow to fight against federal carbon tax on eve of launch
WATCH: On Jan. 1, 2020, the federal carbon tax kicks in. Albertans will be paying more to heat their homes and drive to work. And as Tom Vernon explains, the UCP government is vowing to fight it.

As the federal carbon tax is set to come into effect on Jan. 1, 2020, Alberta’s justice minister is vowing not to back down in the province’s fight against it.

“We’re going to do everything in our power to make sure that we fight back against this federal overreach, to make sure Albertans know we have their back,” Justice Minister and Solicitor General Doug Schweitzer said in Calgary Tuesday.

Schweitzer said Albertans made their opinions clear when his UCP government was elected on a platform to repeal the carbon tax — a promise they made good on as their first enacted bill.

He added that the province’s complete shutout of the Liberals in October’s federal election shows there is little support for the national carbon tax.

READ MORE: Albertans will see gas prices jump Jan. 1 as 2020 federal carbon tax kicks in

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“We know what Albertans don’t want,” he said. “We’ve heard them loud and clear.”

Alberta government vows to continue fight against federal carbon tax
Alberta government vows to continue fight against federal carbon tax

Ottawa’s carbon tax is set to $20 per tonne of carbon emitted into the atmosphere for 2020, rising to $30 per tonne in 2021. That tax is put forward to companies, not consumers, but prices will increase at the pump as companies attempt to make that up.

“I’m going to make sure I fill up my gas tank today because it’s going to be four [or] five bucks more tomorrow,” Schweitzer said.

‘Stockpiling a little bit’

The pressure of the federal carbon tax contributed to long lines at Dodds Coal Mine east of Edmonton on Tuesday, with many customers loading up on coal before the tax kicks in.

“So you’re looking at nearly double the price for a load of coal,” said Dodds Coal Mine office manager Carlene Wetthuhn. “So people are stockpiling a little bit to save on that, so hopefully that will get them maybe through the winter and then they’ll make a decision next year as to how long they’re going to stay on coal.”

Alberta Justice Minister vows to battle federal carbon tax
Alberta Justice Minister vows to battle federal carbon tax

The carbon tax on coal will be $35 per tonne, on top of the $40 per tonne price of coal, which is concerning for farmers who rely on coal to heat their operations.

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“It’s just like cutting half your wage off,” local farmer Stan Goetz said. “It’s ridiculous.”

Schweitzer said Tuesday that the UCP is currently waiting to see what the Alberta Court of Appeal’s decision is on the provincial government’s challenge of the carbon tax.

Ontario and Saskatchewan lost previous challenges in their top provincial courts but are both appealing to the Supreme Court of Canada — other cases that Schweitzer said his government will be watching closely.

He said the federal carbon tax will have a broad economic reach in Alberta.

“This is federal overreach, plain and simple,” Schweitzer said.

“We’re not willing to cave on this. Previous governments wanted to roll over to the federal government.

“We’re not willing to do that.”

READ MORE: Alberta premier urges federal ministers to take province’s concerns seriously

Shared jurisdiction

But the federal government said that a price on carbon needed to be implemented in Alberta after the UCP government repealed the provincial carbon tax introduced by the NDP.

“While our preference is not to resolve these matters in court, protecting the environment cannot wait for provinces trying to delay action,” federal environment ministry press secretary Sabrina Kim said. “Canada has a national climate target and protecting the environment is shared jurisdiction. That’s why we’ll continue to work with all Canadians to advance ambitious climate action.”

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According to internal documents obtained by Global News through a freedom of information request, the province expects to pay between $300,000 and $500,000 in legal costs related to the carbon tax challenge.

It’s a fight Mount Royal University associate professor of policy studies Lori Williams believes may not be beneficial in the long run for the province.

“They’ve just got themselves in a corner in this stage of the game where they’re saying they’re going to fight against this tax without providing clear indications of what they’re going to provide as an alternative,” Williams said.

The federal government has put rebates in place that it said will offset the extra costs added to consumers by the carbon tax.

Here are the rebate amounts Albertans can receive in 2020, according to the federal government:

  • $444 for a single adult of the first adult in a couple
  • $222 for the second adult in the couple, while single parents will receive this amount for their first child
  • $111 for each child in the family under 18 years old

Rural Albertans will receive an additional 10 per cent supplement on top of the rebate they are eligible to receive.

According to the federal government, the majority of Canadians will receive more money in their rebates than they contribute to the carbon tax.

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But Schweitzer disputed that claim, saying the tax is costing jobs in Alberta.

“I don’t buy that at all,” Schweitzer said. “Take a look at Alberta right now. Albertans are struggling. We need jobs in this province.”

– With files from The Canadian Press