Alberta Party Caucus Leader Greg Clark has released the following statement after significant debate on Bill 20, the Climate Leadership Plan.
“The Alberta Party Caucus supports a price on carbon as part of a responsible environmental and innovation policy,” said Clark. “However, I couldn’t support the NDs version of a carbon tax.”
Clark has deep concerns with the lack of revenue neutrality in the Government’s plan, and the complete lack of details about how they plan to spend the billions generated by the tax.
“The principle of a carbon tax, done properly, makes a lot of sense,” argued Clark. “Increasing the price of something we don’t want (carbon emissions) changes behaviour and creates a business environment where Alberta companies can innovate.
“If there’s one thing Albertans are extremely good at, it’s innovation. Our engineers, scientists, academics and finance people can compete with anyone in the world. Match those skills with the strong Alberta entrepreneurial spirit and we will be world leaders in carbon reduction technology
“Alberta can and should help the world deal with carbon emissions and climate change. Success means we can continue to support our oil and gas sector because the world will want to do business with Alberta, while at the same time building Alberta companies and Alberta technology that we can sell to the rest of the world and help diversify our economy.
“Unfortunately, the Government’s carbon tax falls short. The fact two thirds of Albertans will receive a rebate means there is less incentive to change behaviour or implement carbon reduction technologies. I know my economist friends will tell me that rebates and behaviour change from things like a carbon tax are two separate issues, but I have a hard time believing that Albertans who don’t see a change in their bank balances will significantly change their consumption patterns.
There were several areas in which Clark argued the government fell short when creating their Climate Change plan:
“My solution is to rebate only the lowest-income Albertans, ensuring we help those who truly need help,” said Clark. “If carbon tax rebates were applied only to the lowest 25% of income earners, the remainder of carbon tax revenues could be used to lower personal and corporate income taxes. This would allow Albertans to keep more of their hard-earned money and create a more attractive investment climate for Alberta business.
“Making the carbon tax revenue neutral has other economic benefits. University of Calgary professor Kenneth J. McKenzie wrote recently that every additional dollar of personal income tax raised costs the economy $1.71, and ever additional dollar of corporate tax costs $3.79. Using carbon tax revenue to lower these taxes will have benefits beyond the environmental benefits and beyond broad-based rebates.
Too Many Questions
Clark was left with too many questions, and not enough answers as Bill 20 contained little to no new details regarding the carbon tax.
“The Government’s carbon tax is badly lacking details. Over the past two weeks we’ve been debating Bill 20 – Climate Leadership Implementation Act, which simply puts the plans announced in the April budget into law. It was a massive disappointment to not see any further details about the $3.4 billion dollars allocated over the next five years for “other initiatives”, which happens to be exactly the same amount allocated to build healthcare facilities.
“We also have no information about what the government hopes to achieve through Energy Efficiency Alberta, which will spend $645 million over five years. What will Albertans get for this investment? Will we see home energy efficiency rebates? Low-emission vehicle rebates? Support for solar panels on our houses? Something else?
“How does the government plan to replace coal-fired power with 30% renewable energy? I support the phase-out of coal-fired power but it could be a challenge to maintain a stable supply of electricity at a reasonable cost to Albertans without the right plan. It’s unclear when we will see such a plan, and how much of the money allocated to Energy Efficiency Alberta or to “other initiatives” will be used to support the transition.
“It’s difficult to support a bill without answers to these questions and many more.”
Clark put forward two amendments to Bill 20 during Committee of the Whole.
“I worked hard with the other opposition parties to attempt to amend the carbon tax bill to make it better. I support a carbon tax in principle but it needs to be structured appropriately to ensure it does more good than harm.”
Clark proposed an amendment to make the bill revenue neutral over time, but it was defeated by the NDP.
Clark then proposed a second amendment to exempt companies that are carbon negative (for example, tree seedling companies whose products sequester more carbon than they use), but it was defeated by the Government.
“I supported several opposition amendments to try to make the bill better, including a plan to review the bill one year after it’s implementation to determine if the carbon tax is working as the government had hoped,” said Clark. “That amendment and every other opposition amendment (with the exception of a minor technical change) were defeated by the NDP majority.”
“I will continue to push for answers to my questions, and I will continue to advocate for a revenue-neutral carbon tax. Done properly a carbon tax can be an important tool to stimulate investment, diversify our economy and enable the continued success of Alberta’s energy industry.
“Unfortunately, this carbon tax misses the mark.”
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