Ball says carbon tax won’t stack on top of gas tax

Province has lots of work to do to meet deadlines

Published on December 11, 2016

Premier Dwight Ball speaks to The Telegram in a Nov. 24 photo. Ball says the province’s clean-energy challenges are unique.

©Telegram file photo

Premier Dwight Ball signalled that the provincial government needs to update its climate change plans — and get a lot of work done — coming out of last week’s first ministers’ meeting, which produced a pan-Canadian framework on tackling climate change.

Ball said the province got what it wanted signing on to the national framework — namely, recognition of the clean-energy investment into Muskrat Falls, the ability to fashion a “Made in Newfoundland and Labrador” solution, plus assurances that any carbon tax revenue would stay in the province.

“Every province, every premier can sit and talk about things that are unique to their jurisdiction, but my argument is, we’re an island, and we’re also Labrador, which deals with the many challenges of northern communities and rural and coastal communities,” Ball said.

“So we are unique.”

The federal government has announced that come hell or high water, all provinces and territories must institute some sort of carbon pricing system by 2018, starting at $10/tonne and rising to $50 over time.

So far, the province has only really tackled the greenhouse gas emissions from onshore large industry, and that plan involves two years of monitoring before some sort of regulatory emissions controls are put in place.

With 2018 less than 13 months away, Ball acknowledged that the province is going to need to move more quickly.

When it comes to transportation emissions, Ball said that the government won’t put in place an extra tax on top of the $16.5-cent gas tax hike instituted in last spring’s provincial budget.

“If you look at the 2018 $10/tonne on carbon, that would equate to 2.2 cents on a litre of gasoline, as an example,” Ball said.

“So what I’m saying here is that obviously that would not be on top of any temporary tax that we would have in place. We would have to reduce the temporary tax by that amount, to provision for the carbon tax.”

As far as the other big source of emissions in the province — the offshore oil industry — it’s too soon to tell, but action will likely be coming there, too.

“It will probably need to be addressed,” Ball said. “But the ability to use any carbon pricing that comes from either pricing offshore, onshore, or even our transportation industry, being able to use that money at the discretion and flexibility of the province, that’s extremely important to us.”

Speaking to The Telegram Sunday evening, Ball made it clear that a big part of his concern is around protecting the Newfoundland and Labrador economy, and maybe even helping the government’s dire fiscal situation.

The joint communiqué coming out of the first ministers’ meeting specifically talked about beefing up interprovincial electricity transmission options, and that’s something Ball said could serve to benefit the province.

“What’s key to me in all of this is making sure we position our province to create the economic benefits and explore all those opportunities — if it’s wind power, as I said, if it’s more hydro development,” Ball said.