Last week, the Angus Reid Institute published a new national public opinion poll indicating that seven out of 10 Canadians believe the Government of Saskatchewan was right to challenge the Trudeau carbon tax in court, while two thirds of Canadians believe it should be the provinces - not Ottawa - that determine the appropriate path to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Two weeks ago, Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced that Ontario would support Saskatchewan’s legal challenge of the Trudeau carbon tax by seeking intervener status in our government’s reference case at the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal.
In declaring his support for Saskatchewan, Premier Ford was unequivocal, stating that Ontario would use every single tool at its disposal to challenge a carbon tax that would make life unaffordable for families and put thousands of jobs at risk.
Three weeks ago, Prince Edward Island confirmed it is preparing a climate action plan that does not include a carbon tax or a cap and trade system.
PEI Environment Minister Richard Brown said: “If the objective is to reduce carbon in the air, and we have a plan to do that, then why do we need a tax?”
No doubt other provinces are asking the same question, as Ottawa’s September 1 deadline for carbon pricing proposals approaches.
So this is the situation we find our nation in:
• Two or perhaps three provinces are in compliance with the federal carbon pricing plan
• Two provinces are challenging the plan in court
• And a number of the remaining provinces and territories will not be in compliance come September
The federal government would be well advised to take a step back to reassess and consider the withdrawal of its one-size-fits-all carbon tax and adopt a more collegial approach to addressing climate change.
This was the approach Prime Minister Trudeau espoused in March 2016 when he met with Canada’s Premiers in Vancouver to discuss climate change.
In Vancouver, the Prime Minister declared a willingness to work with the Premiers “in the spirit of cooperation and collaboration”.
Soon afterward, Ottawa unilaterally imposed a carbon tax, in a betrayal of those warm sentiments.
It’s time the federal government stepped back and took another look at what the provinces are actually doing to combat climate change.
In Saskatchewan, we have released a climate change plan – Prairie Resilience – that will lead to a real reduction in greenhouse gas emissions without a carbon tax that would cost our province’s energy intensive, export-oriented economy $4 billion over five years.
In Saskatchewan, we are in the process of doubling our renewable power to 50 per cent of our electrical generating capacity, in part by working with First Nations on innovative projects.
We have invested more than a billion dollars in the world’s first commercial power plant with a fully integrated post combustion carbon capture system – the Boundary Dam 3 project (BD3).
BD3 has captured more than two million tonnes of carbon dioxide – the equivalent of taking 500,000 cars off the road.
Carbon capture and storage (CCS) has been identified as a crucial technology to reduce emissions by the United Nations, the International Energy Agency and a number of environmental groups. Saskatchewan is a world leader in advancing this important technology. This should be recognized by the federal government.
We are devising an offset system that will recognize our province as a carbon sink and a research leader in agriculture.
Carbon intensity in agriculture has been reduced in part because of research undertaken in our province, in genetics, agronomy, and in zero till technology that sequesters carbon in the soil.
In Saskatchewan, we manufacture air drills and export them to Russia, Kazakhstan, throughout Europe, the United States and Australia.
These Saskatchewan-made air drills are reducing greenhouse gas emissions around the world.
At home, more than 70 per cent of our land is cultivated using zero till technology.
Meanwhile, the production of pulse crops in Saskatchewan has soared, from 400,000 acres in 1990 to six million acres today.
We are one of the world’s leading exporters of lentils, peas and chickpeas, crops that fix nitrogen, use less fertilizer, and therefore have a lower carbon footprint.
Saskatchewan’s agricultural soils are an enormous carbon sink, sequestering millions of tonnes of CO2 every year.
This, too, should be recognized by the federal government.
As should the millions of tonnes of emissions offset by Saskatchewan uranium used to produce nuclear power in the United States and Asia.
Saskatchewan industries – Canadian industries – are more environmentally responsible and operate more sustainably than many of their competitors around the world.
If we really want to lower emissions, we should encourage Canadians to purchase sustainably-produced Canadian products.
And we should give the provinces the freedom to develop climate change polices that actually work, without a federal carbon tax.
Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe