Regional carbon tax a consideration: P.E.I. Environment Minister

Teresa Wright
Published on February 13, 2016

The frigid temperatures make the emissions from the Maritime Electric stacks really stand out against the sky.

©Guardian photo by Brian McInnis

Robert Mitchell says he, his Atlantic counterparts met recently to discuss strategies on climate change

The Atlantic provinces have begun preliminary talks on a possible carbon tax for the region.

P.E.I. Environment Minister Robert Mitchell says during recent federal-provincial meetings of environment ministers in Ottawa, he and his Atlantic counterparts met separately to discuss regional strategies to tackling climate change.

Those talks included a discussion on a regional approach to carbon pricing.

“We had a great discussion on it, certainly nothing nailed down. But we had some open and frank discussion on that at a side table on a couple of different occasions,” Mitchell said.

A carbon tax is a tax on greenhouse gas emissions generated from burning fuels. It puts a price on each tonne of greenhouse gas with the aim of reducing those emissions.

Currently, the Atlantic provinces and Saskatchewan are the only provinces in Canada without a comprehensive plan to put a price on greenhouse gas emissions.

British Columbia and Manitoba have carbon tax policies and Alberta has recently unveiled a plan to impose a tax on carbon beginning in 2017.

Ontario also rolled out a cap-and-trade plan with a system of credits that will tax carbon starting in 2017. This plan mirrors one already in place in Quebec.

Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall has spoken out against the idea of a carbon tax, favouring instead a less aggressive carbon levy that targets only heavy emitters.

The federal government has so far left it up to the provinces to come up with their own methods to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but Federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna has said a national climate change plan would put a price on carbon.

Mitchell stresses each province faces unique challenges when it comes to climate change and its effects. Prince Edward Island, for example, is losing its coastline at a rate of 43 centimetres on average every year.

That’s why he says a regional approach to carbon pricing might make sense, to ensure the individual needs and challenges of this province and region will be taken into account.

“Those discussions I had off to the side with our Atlantic counterparts were to say, ‘what are our similarities, what are our differences?’ What collectively could we do?’, “ Mitchell said.

“It was a pretty broad range discussion, but if in fact we did do some sort of price on carbon, what would you do with that? How could you spin that back in to make a big difference? If you put a price on, I’ll say, oil or oil products, when you take that margin of what the price is, how do we effectively spin that back through to our buildings or our vehicles to make them more (efficient) …. We’re small, how do we make a difference? And that’s what we’re trying to do.”