Pallister’s #carbontax – Read carefully

Premier Brian Pallister is determined to impose his ‘made in Manitoba’ carbon tax December 1st, 2018. We can correctly assume that the dire financial position of the province plays a part.

Pallister has promised that carbon tax revenues will be returned to Manitobans as tax cuts and may include a 1% decrease in the provincial sales tax.

Government plans are rarely as simple as they sound. According to Statistics Canada, sales of fuel used for road motor vehicles, annual for 2016 were:

Manitoba 2016 Carbon Provincial GST Federal
Type of fuel sales Liters Tax Revenue Revenue
Net sales of gasoline 1,588,529,000 $0.0532 $84,509,742.80 5% $4,225,487.14
Net sales of diesel oil 774,002,000 $0.0671 $51,935,534.20 5% $2,596,776.71
Net sales of liquefied petroleum gas 68,512,000 $0.0381 $2,610,307.20 5% $130,515.36
  Sub Totals $139,055,584.20   $6,952,779.21
  TOTAL COST $146,008,363.41

Carbon taxes will bring in revenues of somewhere over $139 million. Not mentioned is the federal GST windfall of $6.95 million. GST is added to the final retail cost including the provincial road tax.

Including the carbon tax in road, taxes is smart. No separate system for collection is required. The promise of returning all carbon tax income in the form of tax refunds looks possible but is not quite attainable.

The Climate and Green Plan Implementation Act has provisions that make that difficult. The Act makes provision for an Expert Advisory Council which will:

(a) provide advice and recommendations to the minister on programs, policies and measures to be included in the climate and green plan;

(b) review progress on the implementation of the climate and green plan, and provide advice on any required changes to the plan; and

(c) provide advice and recommendations to the minister respecting greenhouse gas emissions reduction goals to be established under section 4.

The Act also provides for setting up a Low Carbon Government Office responsible for developing and implementing policies, strategies and initiatives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and promote sustainable operations by government departments and government agencies and entities prescribed by regulation.

As part of its mandate, the office must focus on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and improving sustainable operations through

(a) sustainable procurement of goods and services;

(b) improved building design, construction, and management;

(c) increased use of zero-emission vehicles and reduced fuel consumption by the vehicle and equipment fleets operated by government departments and prescribed government agencies and entities;

(d) innovative use and management of information and communication technologies; and

(e) improved waste reduction and management operations.

The office must track and record the greenhouse gas emissions of all government departments and prescribed government agencies and entities on an annual basis.

The Act also had provision for maintaining a Sustainable Development Innovations Fund. The purpose of which is to provide financial support for projects, studies, and activities that will do one or more of the following:

(a) reduce greenhouse gas emissions;

(b) address the effects of climate change, including measures to adapt to climate change;

(c) promote sustainable development;

(d) improve the management and protection of water resources;

(e) preserve and protect Manitoba’s water resources, natural habitat, and biodiversity.

The Act also provides for the appointment of a Director and office to monitor, inspect and regulate carbon emission from and ensure reduction target compliance by all non-government entities.

The Act also provides for amendments to the Water Protection Act, including a provision for another Expert Advisory Council to replace the Manitoba Water Council and makes provision for sub-committees of the Council.

All of this will require substantial infrastructure and funding. Bureaucracies are expensive and will diminish available carbon tax refunds to Manitobans.

While a sales tax reduction will have an immediate offset to higher gas prices, reductions in income tax mean a delay between out of pocket carbon expenses and relief at tax filing time. We are out the expenses of carbon taxes paid until the following spring, and by then we have accumulated more expenses for the current year. We are funding government operations in the meantime, which is not entirely bad as that avoids increasing debt.

The carbon tax puts pressure on the working poor who need to commute, and those who use a personal vehicle for work. Those who have the least will hurt the most.

John Feldsted Political Consultant & Strategist Winnipeg, Manitoba

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