Manitoba ag minister on carbon tax: “If we say no, we’ll get Trudeau”

Manitoba Agriculture Minister Ralph Eichler (file photo; source: Government of Manitoba)

Despite major concerns from the farm community, Manitoba’s agriculture minister says the provincial government was left with no choice but to move forward with implementing a carbon tax.

“If we say no, then we’ll get Trudeau,” says Ralph Eichler in the interview below, referring to the Prime Minister’s national carbon price mandate.

Eichler joined us on Monday to discuss the impact the “Made-in-Manitoba Climate and Green Plan” unveiled by Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister on Friday could have on the farm economy.

The plan includes implementing a flat $25/tonne carbon tax from 2018 through 2022, rather than following the carbon pricing schedule the federal government says it will enforce, starting at $10/tonne in 2018 and increasing to $50/tonne by 2022.

Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister and Sustainable Development Minister Rochelle Squires announced the province’s climate plan on Friday at Oak Hammock Marsh north of Winnipeg (Source: @Min_Squires; Twitter.com)

Farm fuels — marked diesel and gasoline — are exempt from the carbon levy, as are agricultural emissions, but many farmers are concerned about the indirect costs that will be passed through other farm inputs and the impact it will have on their competitiveness versus producers in areas without carbon pricing.

“I think as Minister of Agriculture I’ve delivered for our farm families,” says Eichler in the interview below. “It’s been very simple. We’ve been told by the federal government that this plan is going to come forward. We offered a solution. We offered an alternative for our Manitoba farm families and Manitobans in general. Let’s be clear. Either we get behind this plan or we get the Trudeau plan. Very clearly, if we say no, you get Trudeau.”

Eichler says the fuel exemption only applies to marked fuels at this point, and not to fuel for heating barns or grain dryers, but “we’re certainly having conversations now on what that might look like.”

Related: Pallister unveils Manitoba carbon tax with farm fuel exemption

The government is also asking Manitobans for input on how the carbon levy revenue should be spent. The 64-page plan unveiled on Friday lists several major agricultural initiatives that the province would consider funding, including the creation of an ecological goods & services program (eg. ALUS), a program to fund the adoption of beneficial management practices (BMPs), and the creation of a Centre for Sustainable Agriculture to research ways to reduce on-farm emissions.

“Those are some of things on our dream list, things that came forward in our discussion, that most Manitobans are supportive of, and things I think would be a very good first step in achieving some of those goals,” says Eichler.

Federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna has indicated the federal government will take action to enforce it’s national carbon price if Manitoba doesn’t increase its $25/tonne tax to match the federal rate after the first two years. Eichler says he’s “absolutely” confident the province will be able to maintain the lower flat rate.

“This is why we’re going to Manitobans to get their support. if we have the support of Manitobans we will take this to the level that we need to take it to in order to prove that we have the support of all Manitobans on this.”

Why didn’t Manitoba follow the Saskatchewan government’s approach in fighting the federal carbon tax? How does Eichler respond to farmers who are disappointed the PCs have brought this carbon tax plan forward? Will the Manitoba government commit to funding ag programs with the carbon tax revenue? These are some of the questions we asked Minister Eichler:

 

 

Kelvin Heppner

Kelvin Heppner is a field editor and radio host for RealAgriculture and RealAg Radio. He's been reporting on agriculture on the prairies and across Canada since 2008(ish). He farms with his family near Altona, Manitoba, and is on Twitter at @realag_kelvin. @realag_kelvin

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