Saskatchewan shouldn’t be adversely affected by the federal government’s proposed carbon levy, despite heavy criticism from the premier and industry groups, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Wednesday.
Speaking in Saskatoon, Trudeau said people in the province will benefit from pipeline projects that his government has just approved.
"But as I’ve said from the very beginning, the only way to move forward on the economy in the 21st century is to make sure that we’re doing right by the environment at the same time," he said.
"On the issue of folks in Saskatchewan being vulnerable to carbon pricing, the fact is every penny collected in Saskatchewan will stay in Saskatchewan. It will be up to Premier (Brad) Wall to determine how to best help those most vulnerable."
Businessmen, farmers and rural politicians have sent a letter to Trudeau saying his plan to charge $10 per tonne of carbon starting in 2018 — increasing to $50 by 2022 — will hurt the provincial economy.
The letter’s signatories echo concerns from Wall that the federal government has not properly examined how the levy will affect various industries.
The groups, ranging from the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities and chambers of commerce to the heavy construction association, say the levy will cost producers and businesses in competitiveness and income.
"Addressing climate change, protecting the environment and supporting economic development is a process that requires collaboration between all stakeholders," the letter stated.
"We respectfully request the federal government to reverse its decision on the requirement of provinces and territories to implement a price on carbon by 2018 until adequate research and consultation on the matter have been undertaken."
After a town−hall meeting with Trudeau on Wednesday night, SARM president Ray Orb, who penned the letter, said he was "a little disappointed" with Trudeau’s response on the issue.
"I think that the federal government should have done more consultation on this," he said. "I know it was an election promise and I know that the prime minister signed onto the Paris accord, so that committed Canada. But at the same time, I think we should be given time to show the rest of the country what our made−in−Saskatchewan formula is for greenhouse gas emissions.
"I think we’re already doing some of that because we’re sequestering carbon in the agriculture sector, we’re doing it in forestry, we’re doing it in native pasture land. We’re doing a good job of it already and I don’t think we should be penalized for it."
Trudeau has warned carbon pricing will be imposed on provinces that don’t implement the tax or bring in a cap−and−trade system. Wall has said the federal government has not explained how that will be enforced and has suggested it could be challenged in court.
"There will be things upon which we disagree," Trudeau said about Wall’s opposition to the carbon pricing plan. "That’s just fine because we have a country that works best when people of different perspectives come together to serve our citizens the best way we can."