Lieutenant Governor Russ Mirasty reads the speech from the throne during the opening of the fall session of the Legislature. Legislative Assembly of Saskatchewan

Carbon offset credits from farming to be implemented, reducing other sectors carbon burden

 

REGINA – The Saskatchewan First Act, a made-in Saskatchewan carbon offset credit program, continuing work on small modular reactors and development of substantially more wind and solar power production were the key energy issues brought up in the Oct. 26 Saskatchewan speech from the throne. The throne speech was entitled “Growth that works for everyone.”

The Saskatchewan First Act was alluded to in Premier Scott Moe’s recent release of a white paper discussing how nine federal programs and initiatives for the sake of climate change, if fully implemented, would cost this province $111 billion by 2035.

The act is meant to clearly define and defend Saskatchewan’s exclusive jurisdiction over natural resources and its economic future within the Canadian Constitution. It would do so by constitutionally by amending The Saskatchewan Act to state that Saskatchewan continues to retain exclusive jurisdiction over its own natural resources. Along these lines, Saskatchewan would continue to press for greater provincial control over immigration, as has long been guaranteed to Quebec. The government would also introduce legislation enabling Saskatchewan to collect its own corporate income tax.

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While Saskatchewan had been unsuccessful in its legal attempt to scuttle the federally imposed carbon tax, this throne speech sketches out a possible strategy to do an end-around, involving carbon offset credits and farming.

The throne speech said, “My government believes there are better ways to address climate change than the punitive taxes and ineffective regulations imposed by the federal government.

“This year, we committed additional resources to support work undertaken through our Prairie Resilience climate change strategy.

“To help lower global greenhouse gas emissions and to recognize the sustainability of Saskatchewan commodities sold around the world, my government will create a made-in Saskatchewan program to generate voluntary carbon offset credits to producers and companies whose commodities have lower greenhouse gas emissions than global averages.

“These offset credits can then be used by Saskatchewan producers and companies as part of their own efforts to voluntarily reduce emissions or can be traded to others for similar purposes.”

To that end, “In 2020, Saskatchewan sequestered nearly 13 million tonnes of carbon in its agricultural soils, the equivalent of taking 2.78 million cars off the road for a year.

“Today, 95 per cent of Saskatchewan land is cultivated using zero or minimum till practices – the highest percentage among the prairie provinces.

“My government will continue to ensure our producers have every opportunity to reach maximum production in a sustainable manner.”

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Power production

Saskatchewan, through SaskPower, will continue to develop zero-carbon dioxide power production. Indeed, this part of the throne speech was one of the most lengthy and detailed. It said:

Today, many countries in Europe and elsewhere are facing energy shortages caused by failure to ensure reliable baseload power generation.

That will not happen here.

My government is taking an all-of-the-above approach to power generation.

We are expanding renewable energy at a rapid pace.

SaskPower currently has 680 megawatts of wind and solar generation with an additional 330 megawatts in development.

Two major wind power facilities came online this year – the 200-megawatt Golden South Wind Project near Assiniboia and the 175-megawatt Blue Hills Wind Project near Herbert.

Earlier this month, SaskPower announced plans for development of a further 400 megawatts of wind generation and 300 megawatts of solar generation in south-central Saskatchewan by 2026.

This initiative is part of SaskPower’s larger strategy of adding 3,000 megawatts of wind and solar power to our supply mix and achieving 50 per cent renewable generation by 2035.

SaskPower has also agreed to purchase electricity from two solar projects involving First Nations.

The George Gordon First Nation and Star Blanket Cree Nation are partners in a 10-megawatt solar facility now operating near Weyburn.

The Cowessess First Nation owns the majority stake in a 10-megawatt solar facility south of Regina, which is expected to begin operations this fall.

SaskPower also continues to expand natural gas power generating capacity.

The Great Plains Power Station, a 360-megawatt facility under construction near Moose Jaw, is more than half complete and will begin generating electricity next year.

More than $110 million in local work was awarded during the construction of the power station, including $21 million to Indigenous companies.

When Great Plains fires up, SaskPower will have 11 natural gas generating facilities.

The expansion of cleaner burning natural gas power generation has helped SaskPower meet its environmental goals.

The company is on track to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50 per cent from 2005 levels by 2030.

SaskPower is continuing to plan for the potential development and deployment of small modular nuclear reactors.

Last month, the company identified the Estevan and Elbow areas as potential sites for a small modular reactor.

Significant public consultation and engagement will take place before a final decision is made on whether to construct a small modular reactor by 2029.

Oil and gas

As for oil and gas, there were no direct initiatives mentioned. Beyond the Saskatchewan First Act and power production initiatives, all the throne speech had to say specifically about oil and gas was this: “Our province’s oil and gas sector has come alive as production of some of the most sustainable energy in the world moves closer to pre-pandemic levels.”

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There will be support for Saskatchewan’s Indigenous people to get involved in oil and gas. The speech noted, “We have created the Saskatchewan Indigenous Investment Finance Corporation. The corporation will offer up to $75 million in loan guarantees to support Indigenous equity ownership in mining, oil and gas, forestry and value-added agriculture projects.”

Lieutenant Governor Russ Mirasty takes the speaker’s throne during the opening of the fall session of the Legislature. Legislative Assembly of Saskatchewan

 

But higher resource revenues, a strong economy, and stronger tax revenues mean Saskatchewan will balance the provincial budget this year – four years ahead of schedule.

And this is where the $500 cheques for Saskatchewan residents. The speech said, “While higher resource prices have strengthened Saskatchewan’s economy and improved our province’s finances, they have also increased the cost of almost everything.

“Saskatchewan people own the province’s resources.

“Saskatchewan people should benefit when resource prices are high.”

This will result in a four-point affordability plan to:

  • Deliver a $500 Saskatchewan Affordability Tax Credit cheque to everyone age 18 and older;
  • Continue to exempt fitness and gym memberships and other activities from the Provincial Sales Tax;
  • Extend the reduction of the small business tax rate; and
  • Pay down up to $1 billion in operating debt, saving nearly $50 million a year in interest costs.
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The speech said Saskatchewan is on track to reach 1.2 million people before the end of 2022 – an increase of nearly 200,000 people or 20 per cent since the Saskatchewan Party formed government in 2007.

During this session, Saskatchewan will further enhance provincial autonomy by introducing legislation enabling the province to collect its own corporate income tax, as is currently done in Alberta and Quebec.

The Throne Speech concludes by saying: “In a world plunged into uncertainty, Saskatchewan is a reliable, indispensable supplier of food, fuel and fertilizer to millions of people around the globe. My government is charting a course that ensures our economy continues to grow and that everyone in Saskatchewan benefits from that growth.

“More people, more jobs and more investment in government services. That’s growth that works for everyone.”

 

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Drawing the Line: Saskatchewan releases white paper defining how federal climate change regulation is choking this province