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Nova Scotia NDP leader Claudia Chender answers questions from reporters.

Houston government’s carbon tax alternative is a ‘policy failure’: Liberal, NDP leaders

By Jacob Moore Apr 4, 2024 | 7:23 PM

Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston is facing criticism over his proposed replacement of the federal carbon tax.

Liberal leader Zach Churchill says Houston just resubmitted a plan that was denied before because it had no carbon pricing in it.

“It’s no real plan that’s going to result in emissions reduction,” says Churchill. “[That’s] more evidence to me that he would rather have a carbon tax in place for the benefits political and financially that he gets out of it than actually doing the hard work of negotiating an alternative.”

Houston sent a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Sunday. In it, he says Nova Scotia doesn’t need a carbon tax and the province already has emissions reductions plans that are “better and more effective.”

He writes that Nova Scotia has the “most aggressive targets” in the country.

The carbon tax increased on Monday. For example, self-serve regular gas is up 3.8 cents a litre to a minimum of $1.70 while diesel is up 4.6 cents to about $1.90 in Nova Scotia, depending on where you live in our province.

Rural communities

“The federal carbon tax isn’t the right policy for the province because people in rural communities are hit harder by the tax,” Churchill says. “They don’t have public transit or electrical vehicle infrastructure, so they aren’t able to change their behaviour and reduce carbon emissions.”

Claudia Chender, leader of the New Democratic Party of Nova Scotia, says rural residents might get more on their rebate checks, but the tax is still a challenging upfront cost.

“I think it’s accurate, 100 per cent, to say that rural residents are disproportionately impacted. But it’s also accurate to say that that is due to a policy failure of this government,” says Chender.

Instead of finding a solution, the Houston government has picked a fight over the federal carbon tax, she says.

Chender claims the provincial government has failed to fund greener alternatives like public transit or supports for transitioning to different types of electric or hybrid vehicles.

Houston similarly feels that rural Nova Scotians don’t have greener alternatives to driving. He also says the rebate checks don’t make sense because they take money from people just to give it back later.

A price on emissions

Houston wants the federal government to get rid of the carbon tax and to accept his proposed plan, which he claims is an alternative way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Both Churchill and Chender believe that his plan doesn’t do enough.

To adhere to the federal requirements for carbon pricing, the plan should have carbon pricing, Chender says.

“[The plan] is not, in fact, responding to the request [from the federal government], and so I think it insults the intelligence of Nova Scotians,” says Chender.

Carbon tax alternative

Both Chender and Churchill think a better alternative was the cap-and-trade system, similar to Quebec’s, which would tax big polluters and then redistribute that money into programs for greener houses. They say it impacted regular people in Nova Scotia a lot less.

The previous Liberal government had this in place for a short time.

“We actually had a plan in place that did more for the environment, and cost people less, and it worked better,” says Churchill. “The fact that Tim Houston scrapped that program without having an alternative was again more evidence to me that he really wants a carbon tax.”

Houston says the previous Liberal government’s cap-and-trade carbon pricing plan was never permanent, and so he says his government had to find something new.

Houston says he wants Trudeau to look at the plans and see it’s a better alternative to reducing greenhouse gas emissions than the carbon tax.

“We just want to have that discussion with him,” says Houston.

“I would be very happy if the federal government would just get rid of the carbon tax. I would be delighted with that. That’s what Nova Scotians have a right to expect.”