N.S. says its alternative to Ottawa’s climate plan is better than a carbon tax

Nova Scotia’s premier has responded to a challenge from the prime minister to submit an alternative to the federal carbon pricing program.

Tim Houston’s “Still Better Than a Carbon Tax Plan” summarizes the steps his government has taken to battle climate change.

The document includes his government’s previously released plans for coastal protection, climate change, clean electricity and green hydrogen.

He submitted the plan to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in a letter dated March 28. In it, Houston says the province disagrees that a carbon tax is the best mechanism to address climate change in Nova Scotia.

The prime minister told reporters Tuesday in the Halifax area that he hasn’t seen the details of Houston’s plan.

Cross-country protests greet carbon tax increase

The carbon tax increase sparked protests across Canada, along with a call from the premier of Newfoundland and Labrador for an emergency meeting about the increase.

Trudeau said he is open to talking with Houston but added that Nova Scotia’s earlier climate change plans haven’t met federal requirements, which include a price on carbon.

“Other provinces can design a price on pollution that meets that federal level,” Trudeau said. “We’re always there to work with them.

“I have worked with Premier Houston in the past on … various attempts that he made to make that level, but there needs to be fairness across the country.”

Carbon-tax hike

Ottawa’s increase of $15 per tonne of carbon went into effect Monday, but Trudeau said that increase will also mean larger quarterly rebate cheques, which families are next set to receive on April 15 to help offset the higher cost of fuel.

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The quarterly rebates in Nova Scotia had been $103 for a single person and $206 for a family of four.

Monday’s increase pushed up the cost of gas by 3.3 cents a litre. The tax has added 17.6 cents a litre to the price of gasoline since it was introduced in 2019.

In his letter to Trudeau, Houston said the province disagrees with taxing Nova Scotians, who are largely unable to change their consumption behaviours and have to drive in a “rural province.”  

He wrote that “the last thing Nova Scotians need is another tax” at a time when affordability has become a major issue, and that the province has established “the most aggressive climate targets in the country” through the Environment Goals and Climate Change Reduction Act. 

Opposition leaders are highly critical of the province’s plan and do not expect it to be approved by the federal government. 

“It’s not a new plan,” said Liberal Leader Zach Churchill. “It’s not a credible alternative. There’s no pollution pricing in it and if you’re going to be in line with the federal law, there has to be pollution pricing.”

NDP Leader Claudia Chender described Nova Scotia’s plan as more of a communications exercise that will not address the major climate change issues the province is facing.

“They are not doing their homework to bring us a plan like other provinces have that will allow consumers some relief and also ensure that we cannot have another year like the last one with fires, floods and storms,” Chender said. 

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