Source: ParlVu

While appearing before a federal committee, two Canadian premiers were united against the carbon tax, arguing there is a better way for Canada to reduce emissions without throwing its citizens under the bus.

Alberta Premier Danielle Smith and New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs testified on Thursday before the Committee on Government Operations and Estimates.

The two premiers were joined by Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe and Nova Scotian Premier Tim Houston in sending individual letters to the finance committee, requesting to testify in opposition to the upcoming carbon tax hike on Monday.

While the finance committee did not allow them to testify, the committee on government operations and estimates reached out on the same day the letter was written, Tuesday, saying that they could appear before them.

Meanwhile, Moe appeared before the committee on Wednesday, where Liberal MPs complained about his testimony.

Houston did not appear before any committee, and whether he will is unclear. True North reached out to Houston for comment but received no reply.

First in line to appear before the committee on Thursday morning, Higgs testified for about an hour before Smith.

He said that he didn’t want to politicize the conversation and felt that everyone present disagreed with the carbon tax but emphasized his intent to reduce emissions. His focus was on Canada shifting towards policies that would have a bigger global impact while being less punishing on its citizens. 

“My plea here is across party lines to say: let’s think bigger. Let’s look at Canada as a solution to world environmental impact and changes,” said Higgs.

“We are one of the few nations that have the opportunity to have it all. We have the resources which we’ve always thrived on. We have the ability to have a major climate change impact beyond our borders, beyond the 1.5% of [global] emissions that we’re focused on internally,” Higgs stated, emphasizing Canada’s potential to lead in reducing worldwide emissions.

“We don’t need to put the burden of climate action and climate change on the citizens of our country,” he added.

Echoing Higgs’ sentiments, Alberta Premier Smith labelled the carbon tax increase as “reckless, immoral, and inhumane,” pointing to the significant economic and social strain it places on Canadians. 

She said that “the added pressure will ruin countless lives, futures, and dreams. It’s a weight Canadians can’t bear. And that’s why Alberta has been calling on the federal government to eliminate the carbon tax since 2019.”

Alberta’s premier referenced a report from October 2023, which showed 51% of Canadians were $200 or less away from being unable to meet their financial obligations.

Smith emphasized Alberta’s efforts in reducing emissions through innovation and technology, questioning the tax’s effectiveness in combating climate change. 

“We understand the importance of achieving carbon neutrality, and we can manage it together as a nation without punishing everyday Albertans,” Smith remarked.

Both premiers said their provinces were ahead of schedule and making significant strides towards reducing emissions, which could continue without a carbon tax.

Smith explained that the upcoming hike will increase the carbon tax on natural gas to $4.09 a gigajoule, compared to the base price of natural gas of $1.72 a gigajoule.

“The federal government is to increase the carbon tax on something that is life or death for Albertans in the extreme cold of winter. And I will say that is, again, inhumane,” said Smith.

While some committee members reiterated the Liberal party’s claim that eight out of ten people somehow get more money back than the tax takes, Higgs presented contrasting data from a recent Fraser Institute study.

The carbon tax is expected to increase to $170 per tonne in 2030, which the study shows will cause the economy to shrink by 1.8%, causing a loss of approximately 185,000 jobs and reducing real income in every province.

In 2024-25, 60% of households in Alberta, Ontario, Saskatchewan, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and Manitoba will pay more in carbon taxes than they receive in rebates. By 2030, this will increase to 80% being worse off in Alberta, Ontario, Manitoba, Nova Scotia, and P.E.I, while 60% of those in Saskatchewan and Newfoundland and Labrador will remain worse off due to the tax.

The study added that the federal government still owes small and medium-sized businesses $2.5 billion in rebates. 

“Despite any claims to the contrary, Monday’s federal carbon tax hike will leave Canadian families financially worse off—now and in the future—damage government finances, and negatively impact the economy,” wrote the study’s authors Juli Mejía and Elmira Aliakbari.