Federal Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault says he is disappointed Nova Scotia is looking to stall on taxing carbon pollution.
Guilbeault is reacting to a July 5 letter from Nova Scotia Environment Minister Tim Halman that voices concern about the province adopting a carbon tax at a time of high inflation.
Halman says in the letter to Guilbeault that the federal carbon tax could add 14.4 cents per litre to the cost of gasoline in Nova Scotia starting April 1, 2023.
But Guilbeault says pricing pollution is the right thing to do to help fight climate change.
The federal minister issued a statement saying the Nova Scotia government has “every opportunity” to design a pricing system that will directly return carbon tax revenues to the public.
Guilbeault adds that under the federally designed system, eight out of 10 families will get back more than they pay in tax.
“While the federal government places no restrictions on what provinces choose to do with the revenues collected, the Nova Scotia government could instead be considering what policies within their own jurisdictions can be used to support families,” he said.
Halman told reporters last week that he wanted a collaborative approach that works for Nova Scotia and develops offshore wind, tidal power and green hydrogen.
The Progressive Conservative government of Premier Tim Houston is working on a new environmental plan, but the party has drawn fire from the opposition Liberals and NDP for not being open about its options.
Nova Scotia currently has its own cap-and-trade program for large industrial emitters that has been in place since 2019. To date, Halman has said the province’s options are to go with a carbon tax, stick with a cap-and-trade system or create a hybrid of the two models.
Guilbeault, meanwhile, says that the high cost of gasoline has more to do with consumers getting “gouged at the pump” than with carbon pricing.
“The fact is refining margins on gasoline in Canada are up more than 113 per cent between June 2019 and June 2022, and oil and gas companies are experiencing record cash flows,” he said.
Nova Scotia will have to comply with Ottawa’s new requirements beginning in 2023 that will increase the price of carbon by $15 per tonne and increase it again every year until it hits $170 per tonne in 2030.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 5, 2022.