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Tory missteps crushing Manitoba’s finances

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26May

By Graham Lane
Published on May, 25, 2017 in the Winnipeg Sun

Last week Canadians were informed by federal climate change Minister Catherine McKenna that the Trudeau government would impose a federal carbon tax on them to fight “carbon pollution.” Higher taxes on energy are a good thing, she gushed, because they create jobs, spark innovation and meet Canada’s commitments in the United Nations Paris Treaty agreement to fight climate change.

Notwithstanding that carbon dioxide is not pollution and is pumped into greenhouses to promote plant growth, this rosy but economically illiterate higher taxes equal economic prosperity theme is mostly absent in Manitoba where Premier Pallister is making things up on the go.

Pallister’s “made in Manitoba” carbon tax may exempt farmers while delivering new revenue to partially offset the financial damage from the Keeyask/Bipole III debacle. Ironically, Pallister now shares the blame for this mess with the NDP for not halting the project as promised.

To top off Pallister’s mishmash energy policy, he creates a new crown corporation to promote energy efficiency and reduce electricity demand while Keeyask’s unneeded surpluses are to arrive. Manitoba Hydro will export this additional surplus energy, not needed domestically until at least 2039, if ever, at prices well below the cost of generation and transmission (with ratepayers to carry the full burden).

Across the country, it’s more of the same. Ill-informed starry-eyed politicians rolling out half-baked energy policies that unnecessarily raise costs in the economy while increasing energy poverty.

Meanwhile, just south of us, the Trump government promises to lower energy costs by slashing green regulatory over-reach and promoting pipelines, shale gas and coal. These efforts could divert billions of investment dollars that would otherwise go to Canada.

Canadian producers who can’t raise prices in the international marketplace to compensate for carbon taxes will see falling incomes: the new tax will come out of their bottom line.

Unsurprisingly, this attack on our living standards is led by the same people who devastated Ontario’s once reliable energy system under the McGuinty and Wynne governments, before moving to Ottawa upon Trudeau’s election. Their quixotic climate change obsession has brought coal bans, backdoor regulatory suffocation of shale gas development, blocks on new pipelines, and higher taxes on gasoline (to discourage the evil automobile).

This is especially damaging to Western Canada’s resource economy, particularly its hydrocarbon, agriculture, and commodity producing industries (which consume enormous amounts of energy). Actions supported by mostly the central Canada chattering classes harbouring an elite opinion that politicians can change the weather by raising fossil fuel taxes.

Saskatchewan’s Premier Brad Wall understands we compete with the U.S. not Germany, France, and other countries embracing the climate change religion while suffering from power costs two to three times higher than here. To knowledgeable approval, Wall plans to block Trudeau’s carbon tax policies in court, towards protecting Saskatchewan’s oil and energy intensive resource sectors like farming and mining.

This brings us to a heroic and lonely figure in Brian Pallister’s government.

MLA Steven Fletcher deserves many kudos for bravely filibustering his own government’s misguided efforts to set up an energy conservation crown corporation. Unfortunately for us, his efforts were to no avail. Likely, we will end up subsidizing solar for rich folk, just as Keeyask surpluses crushes Manitoba’s finances adding to the list of Pallister’s missteps.

— Graham Lane leads Manitoba Forward

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