CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. - Islanders eager to find out details of how an impending carbon tax will affect their wallets will have to continue to wait.
Premier Wade MacLauchlan was questioned Friday in the legislature about the looming new tax, but he remained mum on details.
“This is something that has got to be done in a way that people can see what it is; understand what it is,” he said.
“It has been mandated, as we all know, by the federal government that there will be a carbon price … and we intend to achieve that with a made-in-P.E.I. approach that will work for Prince Edward Islanders.”
The province is still negotiating with Ottawa to finalize a plan for how to address the federal government’s edict that all provinces adopt a carbon pricing or cap-and-trade system by Jan. 1, 2018.
But it does not appear P.E.I. will meet that federal deadline.
MacLauchlan said Friday he does not expect Islanders would be given any details about a carbon tax between now and the end of the month.
The federal deadline is currently “under discussion,” he said.
Opposition MLA Darlene Compton pressed for details of how much money the province expects to make from this new tax, suggesting perhaps the HST could be lowered when this new tax comes in.
The premier again did not provide details, only reiterating previous statements he has made promising the tax would be “fiscally neutral.”
“When we say fiscally neutral, we start with the proposition that it is not going to be a revenue burden on the most vulnerable Prince Edward Islanders.”
Opposition MLA Jamie Fox then questioned how carbon pricing would affect electricity prices, pointing to an analysis by NB Power last year saying a carbon tax could cost the utility up to $1.3 billion over the next decade.
“Government purchases all of its off-Island power from NB Power,” Fox said.
“Will these costs be passed onto P.E.I. ratepayers in our next power purchase agreement?”
Fox became frustrated at the lack of details government was willing to provide.
“Why does your government refuse to be upfront with Islanders about your carbon tax going forward?”
“Our container port is in another province, our major cargo airports are in other provinces and most of the travellers who come to Prince Edward Island are coming from other provinces and making choices about where they go. It’s very important that as we finalize, as we get to the right solution, the made-in-P.E.I. solution, that it’s something that we understand is working in the regional and national context.”
-Premier Wade MacLauchlan
But MacLauchlan accused the Opposition Tories of fear mongering over the effects of a carbon tax. He even took issue with calling it a tax, preferring instead to call it carbon “pricing”.
“Every question that we’re hearing is trying to raise the anxiety level of Prince Edward Islanders, when in fact, we believe Prince Edward Islanders are proud of what we’re doing with our energy policy.”
He says the province’s ongoing negotiations are looking at how P.E.I.’s carbon price will take regional considerations into account, notably how closely P.E.I.’s economy and carbon footprint is intertwined with the other Maritime provinces.
“Our container port is in another province, our major cargo airports are in other provinces and most of the travellers who come to Prince Edward Island are coming from other provinces and making choices about where they go,” MacLauchlan said.
“It’s very important that as we finalize, as we get to the right solution, the made-in-P.E.I. solution, that it’s something that we understand is working in the regional and national context.”
Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the federal environment minister’s office said Friday many provinces and territories already have systems in place or are working to adopt them ahead of the federal deadline.
“We’ve been very clear that there needs to be a price on carbon across Canada in 2018 and we will be introducing legislation to make that a legal requirement,” the spokesperson said.