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Alberta's NDP government jumped to defend its new carbon tax from detractors on New Year's Day as consumers got their first taste of some of the new prices they'll be paying in 2017.
Deputy Premier Sarah Hoffman addressed reporters at the legislature on Sunday, where she stressed the link between the tax and getting pipelines to tidewater approved.
Hoffman notes Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was clear when he approved Kinder Morgan's expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline in November that the decision would not have happened without Alberta's climate plan.
Gasoline at the pumps rose 4.5 cents per litre on Jan. 1, prompting an Opposition Wildrose MLA to post a picture of himself on Twitter on New Year's Eve filling jerrycans before the price jumped.
"Fillin' up the truck & every jerrycan I can find before the Carbon Tax strikes at midnight," wrote Wildrose member Derek Fildebrandt on Twitter.
Hey man, do you need me to lend you some money?— David Moscrop (@David_Moscrop) January 1, 2017
I live in BC, where we have a carbon tax, but I still have money. You can have some. https://t.co/L5UWcydHCt
Home heating and business fuels go up, too. But the government's plan also includes other tax rebates for Albertans, and it has been praised by both environmentalists, industry leaders and the Trudeau government.
Former Conservative MP Jason Kenney, now seeking the leadership of the Progressive Conservative Party of Alberta, also posted a video of himself at a gas pump, protesting the NDP's climate change plan. But Kenney's video did not provide any proposals of his own to address the threat of climate change.
Filled up my pickup at FasGas tonight, before the NDP carbon tax makes it more expensive at midnight: https://t.co/FDnyzf7d5O— Jason Kenney 🇺🇦 (@jkenney) January 1, 2017
Scientists have said that the planet is facing irreversible damage to its ecosystems and its economy if it fails to stabilize the concentration of heat-trapping greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. This pollution is rising because of the burning of fossil fuels such as oil, gas and coal. Alberta has also been hammered since 2014 because its oil rich economy has lost tens of thousands of jobs due to plummeting global oil prices.
The NDP government's plan proposes to diversify the provincial economy and encourage the development of more renewable forms of energy.
Hoffman called on Albertans who have opposed the government's climate plan to come together for the sake of seeing the Trans Mountain pipeline to completion.
"It's the best way for us to protect for the environment and protect jobs and get pipelines built," Hoffman said.
"While it's four-and-a-half cents today, it's billions of dollars for our economy and for economic diversification that are crucially important for Albertans and Alberta communities."
Alberta isn't the only province where green initiatives were expected to affect prices starting on New Year's — Ontario's cap and trade program to curb carbon emissions also kicked in.
The plan, which is aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 15 per cent below 1990 levels within four years, will drive the price of gasoline up 4.3 cents per litre and increase the cost of home heating by up to $6.70 a month.
The Alberta government estimates the average family will pay $443 more in 2017, but opposition members say it will be at least double that as the carbon tax dominoes through the economy and consumers pay for it through higher prices.
Wildrose Leader Brian Jean said in an emailed statement Sunday that the price of everything is rising at a time when Albertans need a break.
"The vast majority of Albertans do not support this carbon tax, no matter how much money the NDP waste on ads promoting it or how many ministers they send out to spin a job-killing tax," Jean said.
A few months ago, several Wildrose members were forced to apologize after they were criticized for comparing the carbon tax to a famine in Ukraine that killed millions of people in the 1930s.
The Alberta government has another scheduled a media availability on Tuesday where Environment Minister Shannon Phillips is scheduled to talk about the levy, rebates and further steps.
Editor's Note: The headline of this story was updated to clarify that the Alberta NDP government was defending its climate plan.