Premier Scott Moe on Oct. 30. Legislative Assembly of Saskatchewan

All parties unify behind an NDP motion supporting the government refusing to collect carbon tax on natural gas Jan. 1 unless the feds shape up

 

REGINA – Members from all parties in the Saskatchewan Legislature unanimously approved a motion, brought forward by the NDP, to “scrap the carbon tax on everything for everyone. ” And if the federal government refuses to scrap the carbon tax, that all forms of home heating across Canada be exempt from the carbon tax” the motion said the Government of Saskatchewan will to not collect and remit the carbon tax on bills beginning January 1st, 2024.

The motion, after an amendment from the government, passed 52-0.

It was a rare moment of unanimity, supporting a plan which the premier earlier in the day admitted could be “illegal.” But Saskatchewan is going ahead, nonetheless.

Question Period

In Question Period, New Democratic Leader and Leader of the Opposition Carla Beck asked Saskatchewan Party Premier Scott Moe about what the government was doing cost-of-living and affordability for Saskatchewan residents. Moe replied, “I would say the largest affordability measure that we would be able to see over the course of the last while would be an extension of the federal government’s carbon tax abatement that is today focused primarily in Atlantic Canada, to extend that to all home heating sources, including natural gas which is predominantly used in Saskatchewan.”

Leader of the Opposition Carla Beck on Oct. 30. Legislative Assembly of Saskatchewan

 

Beck said, “It’s extraordinary, but we found some agreements between the two sides of the House. Clearly, clearly what the federal government is doing isn’t fair. It’s not fair to allow the exemption in some parts of Canada but not extend that to the West. In fact, I’d say it’s extraordinarily unfair, and directing SaskEnergy to not collect the federal carbon tax is an extraordinary but justified measure if a deal to restore fairness can’t be found. But, it’s clear that the people of this province can’t wait until January 1st for relief. They need relief today. So when will the Premier roll back some of the measures that he’s imposed on Saskatchewan people to offer that relief today?”

Moe replied that SaskEnergy has already applied an 8 per cent reduction in natural gas bills.

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He added, “When it comes to the federal government’s unfair policy favouring families in Atlantic Canada, and not by any stretch favouring families with a policy that I would say . . . that’s a carbon tax policy that we have always said is the wrong policy, but at least in years gone by was enacted fairly. Today it’s still the wrong policy. It isn’t being enacted fairly today.

“And so we would say three things with respect to that. First, still our belief that the federal government should scrap the carbon tax for everyone on everything. That’s priority number one. Second is they should extend their pause to all forms of heating. And if not, SaskEnergy is going to quit collecting the federal carbon tax come January the 1st.”

Beck pressed for some sort of fiscal relief, asking, “What is his plan to get a deal that offers the same relief to people here in Saskatchewan?”

Moe said, “Well I’m pretty sure the people of this province, their voice is being heard and heard well today with respect to ensuring that federal government, propped up by the NDP, Mr. Speaker, the federal government is fully aware that we believe that this carbon tax scheme that they have enacted, of which we have never agreed with, is removed for everyone on everything. That’s priority one — remove this carbon tax scheme, this Trudeau carbon tax scheme that is supported by the NDP.”

Referring to the federal NDP, Moe said, “If there was ever a reason, if there was ever a reason to write your federal leader and say, remove our party from this confidence and supply agreement that you have signed, today is that day. Will the Leader of the Opposition do that?

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Beck said of Moe, “Well, Mr. Speaker, he didn’t ask for advice, but here’s some advice for him. Something I find more effective than tweeting, more effective than standing up in this legislature, is to actually have a plan.

“You know what? Earlier today I called the federal leader and I expressed very clearly the concerns of this province. My understanding is they share our same concerns, but when he’s hopefully talking to all the federal leaders he will reiterate that and clarify that.”

 

NDP motion

Immediately after Question Period, Jared Clarke, NDP MLA for Regina Walsh Acres, moved a “motion of pressing and urgent necessity.”

That motion read:

That the Assembly expresses deep concern over the unfair decision by the Government of Canada to allow oil used for home heating to be exempted from the federal carbon tax while offering no relief to families in Saskatchewan who rely on natural gas, and,

That the Assembly expresses deep concern over the divisive comments made by the Minister of Rural Economic Development, the Honourable Gudie Hutchings, on October 28, 2023 in which she blames Canadians living on the prairies for the unfair choices of the Liberal government, and,

That the Assembly calls on all parties in the Parliament of Canada to quickly work to remove the federal carbon tax from all forms of home heating for all Canadians.

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Clarke said, “The climate crisis is real. Here in Saskatchewan you just have to ask one of the hundreds of people in northern Saskatchewan who fled their homes this summer because of the devastating forest fires and choking smoke. You just have to ask any producer down in the southwest part of our province who has been experiencing crippling drought for a number of years now and are struggling to feed their livestock. Or you could ask the Premier, who is heading to COP28 [Conference of Parties 28] next month.

“Saskatchewan people are looking to the government to do their part in reducing emissions in this province in a way that is thoughtful and makes sense on the prairies. Saskatchewan New Democrats are committed to doing that. However, Saskatchewan people haven’t seen that from this government and they haven’t seen it from the federal government. But it is clear, the carbon tax is not the answer that Saskatchewan people want to address climate change. And I agree with them. We, Saskatchewan New Democrats, agree with them. We do not support the federal carbon tax.

“It was with great dismay this weekend that we learned that the federal government, after seeing their plummeting polling results in the Maritimes, have introduced measures to suspend the carbon tax on home heating oil in Atlantic Canada. Where is the fairness in this decision? Saskatchewan people also need to heat their homes. Why won’t they see relief in this affordability crisis? It is ridiculous that the federal government would set this scenario up which now pits region against region in our great country.”

Regina Walsh Acres MLA Jared Clarke on Oct. 30. Legislative Assembly of Saskatchewan

 

Minister of Crown Investments Corporation Dustin Duncan, Saskatchewan Party MLA for Weyburn Big-Muddy, replied, “Last week the Trudeau government announced a three-year exemption of the carbon tax for home heating oil. This exemption will primarily benefit families in Atlantic Canada where a greater percentage of households use heating oil compared to the rest of the country.

“The Trudeau-Singh coalition have effectively admitted that two of the myths that they have been spreading about the carbon tax are untrue. The first myth is that the carbon tax is affordable and that Canadians will get more in rebates than they pay in carbon taxes. If that were true, Mr. Speaker, then there would be no reason for the federal government to provide this exemption as an affordability measure. The second myth is that this is a tax that is being applied fairly in all areas of the country based on a set rate per tonne of greenhouse gas, GHG, emissions.

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“Heating oil, it should be noted, is primarily used in one part of the country and has higher GHG emissions than other sources, heat sources like natural gas which most Saskatchewan people use to heat their homes.

“The federal government has effectively chosen to make life more affordable for families in one part of the country while leaving Saskatchewan families out in the cold. In Atlantic Canada, 40 per cent of households use heating oil to heat their homes compared to just 0.4 per cent of Saskatchewan households. As we know, Mr. Speaker, natural gas is our primary source of home heating in Saskatchewan with 85 per cent of households having natural gas furnaces.

“Our government cannot accept the federal Liberal-NDP government giving an affordability break to people in one part of the country but not here. So today, as you’ve already heard, Mr. Speaker, we are calling on the federal government to offer the same carbon tax exemption to Saskatchewan families by extending it to all forms of heating, home heating, including natural gas. This is the only fair thing to do for all Canadian families.

“It is our government’s hope that this exemption will be provided soon. If this exemption is not provided, then effective January 1st, 2024, SaskEnergy will stop collecting and remitting the carbon tax on natural gas. This will effectively provide Saskatchewan people with the same exemption that the federal government is giving Atlantic Canadians who use heating oil.

“We continue to call on the federal government to scrap their carbon tax completely, but as long as they are going to continue to charge this tax, our government is going to ensure that Saskatchewan people are treated fairly and equally as Canadians in other parts of the country. That means there should be no carbon tax charge on natural gas to heat your home in Saskatchewan this winter.”

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Duncan moved an amendment to the NDP motion, with new verbiage such replacing the last sentence. The amendment read:

That this Assembly supports the Premier of Saskatchewan’s plan to scrap the carbon tax on everything for everyone; That if the Liberal-NDP coalition government refuses to scrap the carbon tax, that all forms of home heating across Canada be exempted from the carbon tax; and further, That if none of the above is implemented by the Liberal-NDP coalition, that this Assembly supports the Government of Saskatchewan’s plan to not collect and remit the carbon tax on SaskEnergy bills beginning January 1st, 2024.

 

NDP Energy Critic Aleana Young on Oct. 30. Legislative Assembly of Saskatchewan

 

NDP Energy Critic, MLA for Regina University Aleana Young, replied, “There is agreement. And despite perhaps some of the difficulties in hearing it, there is agreement between both sides of this Assembly when it comes to the federal carbon tax not being the right solution for Saskatchewan. We’ve been clear, the Leader of the Opposition has been clear, that this is not right for Saskatchewan. And she’s been clear with everyone.

“And you know, we know. We’re out talking to our constituents, and we know that this has an impact on Saskatchewan households, Saskatchewan small businesses, Saskatchewan farms, Saskatchewan industry. This is significant, and this has a greater impact in the Prairies, in Saskatchewan — it’s been rightly pointed out by members on both sides — due to our reliance, due to our natural gas system of heating here in Saskatchewan.

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Young added, “And you know, to the comments made by the federal minister, it’s unfortunately the kind of crass politics that people hate to see. It was really saying the quiet part out loud and also saying it into a microphone. And it’s not about the fight. And far too often that’s what we see in this Assembly. It’s what we see online, and it’s what we see from leadership, shown by this government. It’s that they’re not interested in solutions. They’re actually only interested in the fight.”

Young continued, “It is unfortunate that the federal government is picking winners and losers when it comes to the implementation of this tax and when it comes to the impacts. Because we know — all members agree — that this has a disproportionate impact on people in the Prairies.. And it’s good to have this type of agreement in the House because as I’ve said, this is a critical issue. It’s an issue of opportunity, it’s an issue of investment, and it’s an issue of affordability. So as I said, people in Saskatchewan are not simply interested in the fight; they’re interested in the solutions.”

The amendment carried 52-0, with support from both sides of the house and from independent MLA, Saskatchewan United Party Leader Nadine Wilson. The final resolution also carried 52-0. The house also moved to send copies of the resolution, as well as verbatim transcripts of the debate to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre and NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh.

Editor’s note: As all MLA comments are supposed to be directed at the chair, MLAs will frequently say “Mr. Speaker” numerous times when speaking in the House, sometimes several times in the same sentence. For clarity’s sake, “Mr. Speaker” references are in almost all cases edited out of quotes.

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Scott Moe: If Atlantic Canada won’t pay the carbon tax on heating, neither will Saskatchewan