Aleana Young, NDP MLA for Regina University. Facebook

REGINA – When it comes to Premier Scott Moe’s white paper entitled, “Drawing the Line: Defending Saskatchewan’s Economic Autonomy,” Regina-University MLA Aleana Young, NDP Energy and Resources critic, said, “To sum it up, I found it short on credibility and short on solutions.”

 

Moe released the white paper on Oct. 11 in North Battleford. Pipeline Online spoke to Young by phone from Regina on Oct. 13.

The white paper said the cost of implementing nine different federal climate change policies in Saskatchewan will total $111 billion by 2035, averaging $8.8 billion per year.

She continued, “I’m certainly not an economist by training.”

Young said, “So, a $111 billion cost. It’s hard to trust the government numbers at the best of times. Understanding this is politics, on important issues of economic prosperity, it’s disappointing to see numbers always kind of torqued to support the government’s political arguments as opposed to the real issues and concerns that they should be addressing.

“I have the opportunity to speak to this a couple days later, but you know, in the in the past few days, there has yet to be an economist who is willing to stand behind the numbers or defend them, which I think, best case scenario, is disappointing.”

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Asked if there was a specific point, of the nine raised by the white paper, that she took issue with, Young said, “I think overall, when you look at when you look at the numbers, and you look at the nine different points, what they’ve done is they’ve taken a point-in-time analysis, with some pretty big liberties in terms of interpretations of costs. And there’s no focus here on some of the opportunities and I think some of the really good work that is going on in the province.

“And look, I’m not here to carry water for the Feds. People and the province of Saskatchewan has very legitimate frustrations with the federal government and I think the majority of people in the province would agree that there are many instances where, of course, it is important to speak for the province and to make sure that no one is overreaching into provincial jurisdiction. I think that that’s quite simple. But to me, when I see such astronomical numbers, and we don’t see we don’t see any sound economic arguments been made, it seems like a bit of a wild attempt to paper over some of the worst economic growth projections in the country. And, like I said, I think most disappointingly, it’s really short on solutions.”

The white paper notes an average of $8.8 billion annual cost to Saskatchewan over 12 years. But that average is not actually a reflection of the costs year to year, as certain items, like the federal carbon tax, are relatively low now, i.e. $50 a tonne CO2 equivalent, but are expected to ramp up. For the carbon tax, that means it will be roughly five times, $245 per tonne CO2e, compared to today. As such, Young referred to the white paper as “a bit of a paper tiger.”

She said it doesn’t talk about different kinds investments happening in the province now, or those that are necessary. “It’s a state-in-time report, and the province needs to match some of these concerts with real action.”

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Asked if she meant legal action or equivalency agreements, Young responded, “It’s unclear what the province is intending to do. There’s some vague assertions about you know, reasserting provincial jurisdiction and you know, the premier, himself, was unclear on potential legislation, which to me is, I think either concerning if this is going to be a huge part of the government legislative agenda are not particularly credible.”

Noting she’s not a lawyer, Young said, “legislation at the provincial level, specifically as it relates to reasserting provincial jurisdiction is absolutely meaningless if the province isn’t intervening on, you know, federal encumbrances in court, and they won’t. Or, they’re at the very least, not coming out and saying they will, because there’s no legal basis to do so.

“This, with its lack of solutions, reads like it’s more about protecting political interests and provincial interests.”

Asked what sort of economy Saskatchewan can have with the nine areas of restrictions federal climate change policies are implement, Young said, “I think we’ve been we’ve been clear on this, when it comes to, pick your policy, any one of the nine. I think you can sum it up as too far and too fast. You know, do I think climate change is real and a concern and has costs? On a global level, at the smallest level when it comes to insurance? Absolutely.

“Do I think it’s a concern that most people share? I have never met a person who loves pollution. When I used to when I used to travel where I fit in airports and, have a beer at the bar and somehow I’d always end up sitting next to some diehard red state Republican, they say I was, you know, there with PTRC, and we’re doing some work on CCS, deep saline storage. And, he’d say, ‘You know, I don’t know about climate change, but boy, I think we can all agree on cleaner air.’ And I thought, you know, isn’t that a great place to find common ground?”

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Young said there is a real case to be made, that the federal government is moving too far, and too fast.

Fertilizer emissions are now under the crosshairs of the federal government. Photo by Brian Zinchuk

 

“The fertilizer one, it’s just a terrible idea at best. But, a real solution that I think the province could be exploring on some of these things, is actually continuing to actually funding critical innovation work,” Young said.

“As long as there is demand for oil and gas we have here in Saskatchewan, that demand should be met by Saskatchewan. And these caps make it incredibly difficult to do so. We have the capacity to do this as a province, as a province that is a critical part of this country. And do we need a federal government that recognizes that? Absolutely. They can’t just fly over. That’s not the type of province we are in? That’s not the type of relationship we deserve believe also, and this is this is my frustration. We need a provincial government as well that is doing some of the hard yards on this work, that will hugely impact the lives of people in Saskatchewan.”

“We need adults in the room who are going to do the hard yards and the real work that will impact the prosperity of people in the province and the opportunity for people in the province.”

She said there is some realization at the federal level regarding the electrification challenge of implementing electric vehicles, for instance.

Pipeline Online has not yet seen this Co-op EV charger used at Moosomin, despite numerous visits. Photo by Brian Zinchuk

 

Young pointed out that the white paper talks about the relationship with the federal government, but does not mention federal equalization. The previous NDP Saskatchewan government, under Premier Lorne Calvert, took the federal government to court on equalization and the inclusion of natural resources. That court case was ended when the Saskatchewan Party came to power in 2007. “At the very least, they’d be bringing back that court case and working to get a new deal on equalization for the province of Saskatchewan. That is a real tangible solution, and one that is glaringly absent from this report.”

 

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Sask Chamber says it is “proud to be a leading voice in Saskatchewan pushing the move to a low carbon economy”