Guilbeault calls Saskatchewan premier ‘immoral’ for violating carbon pricing law

Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault says Ottawa must take action against Saskatchewan for violating federal carbon pricing law.

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe said last week his province would not come forward with the money it owed for the carbon price of natural gas as required on Feb. 29.

Moe is protesting Ottawa’s decision to exempt heating oil from the tax, but not natural gas, which is used by eight in 10 households in Saskatchewan.

Under the law, fuel distributors like SaskEnergy must file monthly reports on the amount of fuel sold and the carbon price collected for that fuel.

Failure to file such reports or pay amounts owed carries consequences, including fines based on the unpaid amount and jail time.

Guilbeault considers it “immoral” and “irresponsible” for a prime minister to decide not to respect the law.

“If Premier Scott Moe decides he wants to start breaking the laws and not respecting federal laws, then action will have to be taken,” Guilbeault said in response to a reporter’s question.

“We can’t let that happen. What if tomorrow someone decides that they don’t want to respect other federal laws, criminal laws? What would happen then if a premier, the premier of a province, wanted to do that?” he continued.

“It’s irresponsible and downright immoral of them. We may have disagreements about things like climate change, but to be so reckless is truly unspeakable.”

Last week, SaskEnergy Minister Dustin Duncan said he knew his government’s decision could have consequences, but that it came out of a sense of justice.

“It’s not something I take lightly,” Duncan said on Feb. 29.

Last fall, the federal Liberals moved to give heating oil a three-year exclusion from carbon pricing, arguing that families using the product needed more time and financial help to replace their oil boilers with electric heat pumps. .

Heating oil is about three times more expensive than natural gas, before carbon pricing, and oil prices have risen more than 50 percent in recent years, providing a financial incentive to replace it without adding a price on carbon.

Federal data shows that 1.2 million homes in Canada still use heating oil, and almost a quarter are in Atlantic Canada. Only three percent of them are in the three prairie provinces.

The Liberals were accused of making the decision based on politics, and their poll numbers on the East Coast sank.

The ruling party has few seats in the Prairies, but most in the Atlantic.

It could be some time before the consequences are known.

While Saskatchewan has been very public about not making a payment, for privacy reasons, the Canada Revenue Agency will not confirm when a specific customer fails to make a payment on time, even if it is a provincial government.

The CRA has compliance processes to request payments or documentation before going to court.

Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson said last week that one consequence will be cutting carbon rebates sent to Saskatchewan households.

Refunds are based on the amount of money raised in each province and will be reduced, he said, if less money comes in.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 4, 2024.

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