NWT Premier Bob McLeod has joined forces with his territorial counterparts to to warn the federal government its looming carbon tax is going to have devastating effects on the residents of all three territories.
This, in addition to an admonishment of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Dec. 20 decision to impose a moratorium on Arctic offshore drilling, were two key points made at a news conference hosted by McLeod, alongside Yukon Premier Sandy Silver and Nunavut Premier Peter Taptuna, at the legislative assembly Aug. 31.
The leaders held the conference to announce pan-territorial co-operation on a number of issues, including the split of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada into two separate departments, climate change, strengthening relationships with Indigenous people and infrastructure.
Right now, the territorial government is grappling with what its carbon-tax plan, imposed by Trudeau last year, will look like.
The tax will start in 2018 at $10 per tonne for provinces and territories that don’t already have their own carbon tax or cap and trade system already in place and will rise $10 per tonne to $50 by 2022.
According to a territorial government discussion paper on the tax, this is estimated to translate to an extra $900 per year in costs per NWT household by 2022.
The premiers were asked what action, if any, they could take if the federal government won’t listen to them on the need to tailor a carbon tax for the North.
McLeod suggested a series of increasingly ridiculous scenarios before conceding the most likely outcome is further negotiation.
“We can take action on our own,” he said. “We can withdraw from processes. We can not fly the Canadian flag, like (ex-Newfoundland premier) Danny Williams did. We can take the ‘true North strong and free’ out of the Canadian national anthem. Realistically we want to work with the federal government. I think that’s the best way to go.”
In July of last year, McLeod united with Taptuna and former Yukon Premier Darrell Pasloski to oppose the tax because of the already high cost of living in the North. However, last December, the GNWT signed an agreement with the federal government committing to its implementation.
All three territories have until February to have carbon pricing legislation in place or the feds will impose their own plan. Cabinet spokesperson Andrew Livingstone stated it is to be unveiled later in the fall.
At this point it is still not clear whether the Liberal government will make any concessions for the territories when it comes to a carbon tax.
Later in the news conference, McLeod got testy with an Ottawa reporter who wanted to know why he was opposed to Ottawa’s moratorium on offshore oil drilling during a time when there is little, if any, drilling or exploration going on in the North right now.
“I think you really describe yourself with a perfect southern point of view with that question,” he said. “The federal government announced a moratorium that would leave trillions of dollars of oil and gas in the ground … Obviously you are not familiar with the Inuvik region where people have lived for many years – (where) a lot of businesses have invested and lived through the trials and tribulations of oil and gas and now the rug has been pulled out from underneath them. There is no evidence or indication from the federal government that there is an economic strategy that would position us to be able to deal with the moratorium.”
– with files from Emelie Peacock
Fact File: Pan-territorial vision for sustainable development
– Reaffirm the necessity of Northerners being at forefront of decisions affecting
economic future of the North
– Highlight benefits of strong territorial economies in creating opportunities for
Indigenous and non-Indigenous territorial residents
– Speak to how territorial economic development will advance federal government objectives
– Communicate to industry a territorial commitment to increase attractiveness to investment rather than commitment to increase regulatory complexity and uncertainty
Source: NWT, Nunavut and Yukon governments