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Nova Scotia mum on new carbon tax 6 months before federal increase kicks in

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Six months before a decision is needed by Nova Scotia on whether it will opt for a carbon tax, the provincial government is keeping mum on its plans.

Premier Tim Houston said following a cabinet meeting Thursday that discussions are ongoing with the federal government and analysis is underway on a new carbon-pricing deal. Houston added that any decision will be made with the rising cost of living in mind.

“We as a government understand the urgency of the requirements that the federal government has pushed down to us,” said Houston.

“But we have one goal — to protect Nova Scotians.”

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Houston said whatever is decided will have to comply with new federal requirements that will increase the price of carbon in six months by $15 per tonne, and then again every year until it hits $170 per tonne in 2030.

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The province currently operates its own cap-and-trade program for large industrial emitters that has been in place since 2019.

The deal for the program negotiated by the former Liberal government with Ottawa prevented the kind of spikes on gas and electricity rates caused by carbon pricing models in other provinces. It was made possible because the province was given credit for the previous work it had done in developing renewable energy.

Environment Minister Tim Halman said the province has yet to decide on whether to stick with cap-and-trade, to introduce a carbon tax or to go with a hybrid of the two models.

“This is a big public policy decision for the province and we want to make sure that we get this right,” said Halman.

The minister said the government feels it “has enough runway” to implement a new system in the time remaining, even though it took over a year to implement the original cap-and-trade deal.

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Halman didn’t offer an opinion when asked whether he thought the cap-and-trade system had been successful. Department officials have said that it added one to one-and-a-half cents per litre to the price of fuel in the province.

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Liberal critic Braedon Clark expressed disappointment that Halman “didn’t say much” about what’s being planned.

“I just wish the government would treat Nova Scotians like adults and give them the real goods as to what’s going on and what they can expect in six months time,” Clark said.

NDP Leader Gary Burrill said he’s not surprised that the government has nothing to say at this point, given that it also has not produced the climate plan it promised for this spring.

“I think it’s entirely believable that a government that has dragged its feet on the climate plan in fact does not know where it is on carbon,” Burrill said.

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