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‘We can’t pretend that climate change isn’t there’: Notley stands firm on carbon tax if NDP re-elected

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Alberta’s carbon tax isn’t going anywhere if the NDP is re-elected in the looming election, Premier Rachel Notley says.

“We can’t pretend that climate change isn’t there. We have an obligation as a world-leading energy producer to show leadership on it,” the NDP leader said on CBC’s Alberta@Noon on Tuesday.

Provincial legislation dictates an election must be held between March 1 and May 31.

“In the long term, that’s how we are going to grow our economy and grow our markets, and I absolutely believe it is the right thing to do.”

But she still says her government won’t sign on to the federal carbon plan until shovels are back in the ground on the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.

When the NDP introduced the carbon tax, Notley had explicitly linked it to getting the social licence needed to get pipelines built. The government rolled out a $20-per-tonne tax on carbon dioxide emissions on Jan. 1, 2017, which increased to $30 a tonne on Jan. 1, 2018.

Under the federal climate change plan introduced by Justin Trudeau’s Liberals, the carbon tax must reach $50 per tonne by 2022. Notley had said Alberta would respect the federal mandate, but later pulled out, expressing frustration with the federal government’s handling of pipeline and energy industry challenges.

Notley told Alberta@Noon that the carbon tax is tied to infrastructure projects that depend on the funding.

“The Green Line in Calgary would get cancelled, the new LRT line in Edmonton would get cancelled. We would also be unable to support the good work that’s going on — the technological innovation, taking carbon out of the product we produce, making sure we can present to the world a sustainable, responsible product and at the same time supporting the efforts of Albertans to reduce our emissions.”

Projects won’t be cancelled, counters UCP

The NDP’s chief rival so far according to the polls, the United Conservative Party led by Jason Kenney, has vowed to eliminate the carbon tax if it wins.

On Tuesday, a UCP spokesperson rejected Notley’s assertion that projects would be cancelled without a provincial carbon tax.

“I would … remind you that federal Green Line funding was announced by Jason Kenney in his capacity as a federal cabinet minister,” spokesperson Christine Myatt said in an emailed statement.

The UCP, which formed when the Wildrose Party and Progressive Conservative Party merged in July 2017, says its post-carbon tax plans are being worked on.

“Our platform is currently under development, and we will have more to say on our plan to reduce emissions closer to the election,” Myatt said in the statement.

The Alberta Party, Alberta Liberal Party and Green Party of Alberta have all indicated that they would keep the provincial carbon tax, but with some tweaks.

The Freedom Conservative Party of Alberta has said it would scrap the levy entirely.

Political scientist Duane Bratt wonders whether the reaction to Alberta’s carbon tax would have been different if the economy were in better shape or the messaging more effective. (CBC)

Carbon tax messaging, timing not ideal, says political scientist

A political scientist predicts the carbon tax will be the major issue in the upcoming election.

“It is the major initiative of the Notley government. This impacted everybody. This is why Jason Kenney has said Bill 1 will be repealing that carbon tax,” said Duane Bratt, a professor at Mount Royal University in Calgary.

But it’s not clear what would come after that repeal, he said.

“Let’s say we didn’t have the carbon tax. Let’s say we use the Jason Kenney approach. Would we be any closer to building a pipeline?” Bratt asked.

He says the reaction to the carbon tax could have been different.

“If you are going to change behaviour, economists have shown the carbon tax is the simplest, easiest way to do that. Could there have been a difference in how it was messaged? Possibly,” Bratt said.

“If this had come in in 2010 or 2011 when the economy was that much stronger, would that have made a difference?” 


Tune in for more political coverage on Alberta@Noon when Jason Kenney joins the show on Jan. 22.

Listen to the entire Alberta@Noon interview with Rachel Notley here or watch the Facebook Live video right here.


With files from Alberta@Noon

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Federal Budget 2021: Ottawa adds $1B to broadband fund for rural, remote communities

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The federal government will add $1 billion to a fund for improving high-speed communications in rural and remote areas of Canada, bringing the total to $2.75 billion by 2026, the Liberals said Monday in their first full budget since the pandemic began last year.

The money is going to the Universal Broadband Fund, which is designed to support the installation of “backbone” infrastructure that connects underserved communities to high-speed internet.

It’s one of many government and private-sector initiatives that have gained urgency since the pandemic began, as Canadians became more dependent on internet service for applications ranging from e-learning to daily business operations.

Ottawa says the additional money will keep it on track to have high-speed broadband in 98 per cent of the country by 2026, and 100 per cent by 2030.

Money spent on high-speed communications will be good for a recovering economy, said Pedro Antunes, chief economist at the Conference Board of Canada, a non-partisan think-tank.

The latest data from Statistics Canada says there were about five million people working from home during the pandemic, up from about two million prior to that, Antunes said in an interview.

“That’s a quarter or so of the workforce,” he added. “And I think a fair number of those people are going to continue to work from home, at least in some part-time way.”

Improved connections to high-speed broadband and mobile communications will add to the productive capacity of the economy overall, especially as it reaches beyond Canada’s cities, Antunes said.

He said there’s been a “real issue” with economic growth outside major urban centres and the improved connectivity “is something that can help stimulate that.”

The Universal Broadband Fund was initially mentioned in the 2019 budget, though specifics were not available until last November’s fiscal update.

The $1-billion top-up to the broadband fund announced today is in addition to $1.75 billion promised to the fund by the federal government’s November fiscal update.

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COVID-19: What you need to know for April 19

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Provincewide

  • Per today’s government report, there are 4,447 new cases in Ontario, for a total of 421,442 since the pandemic began; 2,202 people are in hospital, 755 of them in intensive care, and 516 on ventilators. To date, 7,735 people have died.
  • According to data from the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, there are 40 outbreaks in long-term-care facilities, 36 confirmed active cases of positive residents, and 127 confirmed active cases of positive staff. To date, there have been 3,755 confirmed resident deaths and 11 confirmed staff deaths.
  • Per the government’s report on Ontario’s vaccination program, as of 7 p.m. yesterday, Ontario has administered 66,897 new doses of COVID-19 vaccines, for a total of 3,904,778 since December 2020. 3,212,768 people have received only one dose, and 346,005 people have received both doses.

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Federal budget 2021 highlights: Child care, recovery benefits, OAS increases – everything you need to know

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The federal government’s first budget in more than two years certainly looks the part: At 739 pages, it is a hefty document chock full of billions in new spending.

Those funds will be spread among a number of key groups – students, seniors, parents and small-business owners, to name a few – as Ottawa looks to bolster Canada’s recovery from COVID-19 but also plan for life beyond the pandemic.

To that end, the deficit is projected to hit $354.2-billion in the 2020-21 fiscal year, which just ended – better than expected about five months ago, given the economy’s resilience over the winter months. It is estimated to fall to $154.7-billion this fiscal year, before dropping further in the years to come as pandemic spending recedes from view.

Here are some of the highlights from Monday’s budget.

The budget outlines tens of billions of dollars in federal subsidies for a national child-care program, a promise the Liberal Party has made in some form since the early 1990s. Child-care supports became a point of national debate during pandemic lockdowns as parents with young children struggled to juggle work and family responsibilities.

In total, the government proposes spending as much as $30-billion over the next five years, and $8.3-billion each year after that, to bring child-care fees down to a $10-a-day average by 2026. The proposal, which requires negotiation with the provinces and territories, would split subsidies evenly with those governments and targets a 50-per-cent reduction in average child-care fees by the end of 2022.

The federal program is largely modelled on Quebec’s subsidized child-care system, implemented in the 1990s in an effort to increase women’s access to the labour market. Since then, labour participation rates for women aged 25 to 54 in the province have grown to exceed the national average by four percentage points.

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