Whitehorse Daily Star

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Photo by Sidney Cohen

TAX SHALL NOT PASS – Premiers Peter Taptuna from Nunavut, Darrell Pasloski of the Yukon and Bob McLeod of the Northwest Territories (left to right) stand last Thursday beside the Yukon River in Dawson City.

Northern premiers say ‘no’ to a carbon tax

Canada’s three territorial leaders agree that a carbon tax would prompt the high cost of living in the North to soar even further,

By Sidney Cohen on May 3, 2016

Canada’s three territorial leaders agree that a carbon tax would prompt the high cost of living in the North to soar even further, and say they will look for alternative ways to bring down greenhouse gas emissions.

Climate change was on the agenda when the premiers of the Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut met in Dawson City and Old Crow late last week for the two-day Northern Premiers’ Forum.

The trio called on government leaders in the South to be sensitive to the northern context.

They did so as they stood at the bank of the Yukon River in Dawson last Thursday. The waterway had broken up the week before – the earliest breakup on record.

Darrell Pasloski of the Yukon, Bob McLeod of Northwest Territories and Peter Taptuna from Nunavut all acknowledged that climate change is acute in the North.

The Yukon, for example, is warming at twice the rate of the rest of Canada, according to a 2015 Yukon College report on the indicators of climate change in the territory.

This puts the Yukon at an increased risk of flooding, forest fires and infestations of invasive species. The trend also threatens food security in communities that count on a predictable supply of game animals and fish.

But a carbon tax too would disproportionately impact the territories, said the premiers.

Most goods must be shipped up from the South, and across vast distances, by truck or airplane, they pointed out.

“We all agree that we have to do our part ... we just have to realize that we have to address regional differences,” Pasloski told a Friday press conference capping off the meeting of territorial premiers in Old Crow.

Carbon pricing is meant to change people’s habits, Pasloski said. But in the North, “you can’t decide to just leave your car at home and get on a subway.”

The Yukon premier has stated repeatedly that a levy at the pumps would make everything in the territory more expensive. (Two weeks ago, as global oil prices rose, Whitehorse drivers absorbed a hike from 99 cents to $1.04 for a litre of regular gasoline.)

Nunavut’s Taptuna stressed that a carbon tax would put “a lot of strain” on his territory’s fragile economy.

“If (a carbon tax) ever happens to Nunavut, you’ll see a price increase overnight; we want to make sure that our provincial partners understand that fully,” he said.

The territories must be allowed flexibility in how they reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, he said.

Taptuna said that there is no hydro power in Nunavut, and that all communities in his territory rely on energy generated through burning diesel.

He said Nunavut can be more fuel-efficient, but it needs the dollars from Ottawa.

“Some of these engines (in Nunavut) are over 60 years old, so to become more effective and create less greenhouse gas emissions, we do need modernization and a lot of help from our federal partners,” said Taptuna.

The cost of living in Nunavut is already much higher than in the rest of Canada, he said.

Nutritious food is at a premium. As well, there is a severe housing shortage – about 3,000 new homes are needed right now, according to Taptuna – as building supplies and much labour must be brought up from Ontario or Quebec.

It costs three times what it does in Toronto to build housing in Nunavut, the president and CEO of the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. said last month in his speech to the Yukon and Whitehorse Chambers of Commerce.

McLeod said his territory is similarly sensitive to changes in gas prices.

“I’ve told the prime minister and all the premiers that we’ve been able to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions significantly without carbon pricing,” he said.

Indeed, the Northwest Territories brought down its emissions 30 per cent from 2001 levels according to a 2015 territorial government report, in part by investing in solar and wind energy.

Though he is not in favour of carbon pricing, McLeod is not unequivocally opposed to it either.

He said he appreciates Alberta’s carbon pricing model.

“I also like what Alberta has indicated... they’re not going to implement it uniformly across the province so communities that have no economic development would be exempt.”

Alberta will institute a $20-per tonne (or 4.49 cents per litre of gasoline) carbon tax in 2017, and will increase it to $30 a tonne in 2018.

However, fuel used for certain operations won’t be subject to the new tax.

For example, fuel purchased on reserves for use by First Nations individuals and bands, fuel used for farming, and biofuels such as ethanol, will be exempt.

“We could institute a carbon price in certain sectors, but we will go and talk to our population about it,” said McLeod.

The nation’s premiers and the prime minister committed to transition Canada to a low-carbon economy at a meeting in Vancouver in March.

Government leaders identified “carbon pricing mechanisms adapted to each province’s and territory’s specific circumstances,” as an emissions reduction tool that required serious consideration.

Four working groups were set up to determine actions provinces and territories can take regionally to combat climate change.

These groups will report back at the next first ministers’ meeting in October.

Their recommendations will inform a “pan-Canadian framework for clean growth and climate change.”

Comments (9)

Up 0 Down 0

BnR on May 9, 2016 at 9:17 pm

Judging by the number of thumbs down on my last comment, I must be hitting pretty close to home. "You'll have to claw my cold, dead fingers from my steering wheel...."

Up 10 Down 31

BnR on May 4, 2016 at 6:52 am

From the article; "Carbon pricing is meant to change people’s habits, Pasloski said. But in the North, “you can’t decide to just leave your car at home and get on a subway.”
Let's have a look at this statement. In the Yukon for instance, the vast majority of the population lives in Whitehorse. So Darrell's statement is BS. Of course you can leave your car at home. You can commute by walking or biking or taking the bus. Of course if you live country res or out of town, this becomes impractical, but within Whitehorse, people drive because it's convenient (and then complain about rush minute, but that's another story). Look at all the vehicles coming out of Riverdale in the morning. If they work downtown, they could commute, but it's too easy to just drive. So BS Darrell, people in the North CAN (in many instances) just leave the car at home, but it's cheap and easy to just drive.
Ok, cue the righteous indignation " I have to drive, damned cyclists"....

Up 8 Down 11

jc on May 3, 2016 at 9:48 pm

I think this falls election should be run on a carbon tax. That should bury the NDP at least. I haven't heard whether the Liberals support it. The Yukon government should be thinking about getting the trains back on the rails. Shutting down the highway trucking should eliminate a lot of carbon as well as less highway maintenance costs.

Up 30 Down 5

Just to get it straight on carbon ommissions on May 3, 2016 at 7:26 pm

Yukon Forest removes all the carbon we release and more from other areas like Alberta.
Yukon carbon foot print is 0.

Up 23 Down 2

north_of_60 on May 3, 2016 at 5:02 pm

@JJ "the territories do not have the technology to capture all of the inherent carbon emissions" Nor do we need to.

Fossil fuels sold in the Yukon emit 550 to 700 kiloTonnes of CO2e per year.
Our boreal forest absorbs 30 grams of CO2 per square meter per year, or 30 ton CO2 per sq-km per year. Approximately 18,300 to 23,300 sq-km of our forests absorb the CO2 emitted by the fossil fuels sold in the Yukon. That's a square patch of forest 135 to 150 kilometers on a side. Here in the Yukon CO2 is NOT toxic pollution. All the CO2 produced here will be absorbed by the surrounding forest. Why should anyone pay a CarbonTax in the Yukon? If anything, we should be receiving a CarbonTax credit, since our forests absorb more CO2 than we emit.

Somebody has to pay for all those election promises and the cost of a 400 person delegation to the Paris Climate Games. The primary purpose of those Games was to convince those who voted for this government that they should feel guilty about the CO2 their lifestyle emits. Paying a CarbonTax is supposed to make them feel better about it. This guilt-tax concept is similar to the Indulgences sold by the Church in Medieval times as "a way to reduce the amount of punishment one has to undergo for sins".

We shouldn't expect the government to solve the problems WE are causing when we buy products made in countries that pollute. Anyone really concerned about global CO2, should plant trees and consider how much 'stuff' they buy that's made in China, the USofA, or India. Those three countries produce more than half the GHGs, and most of it is from burning coal, the dirtiest fossil fuel of all. Canada only contributes 2% of the worlds GHGs. Making and shipping all that 'stuff' is contributing more GHGs and toxic pollution than all the fossil fuel we burn to heat our buildings or run our vehicles.

If you want to do something effective, then use less and use it more efficiently. Don't buy stuff' you don't need, especially if it's made in countries that produce most of the pollution that's killing the planet. We can't stop them from polluting, but we can at least avoid being part of the problem.

Up 20 Down 24

Mark carroll on May 3, 2016 at 4:03 pm

Now these three clowns are concerned about the high costs of living. No comment when oil was sky high and people had to pay to heat and fill their cars. Now they pretend to be champions of the struggling class. Sad group to say the least. I am not totally sold on the carbon tax and its benefits, but it's rich coming from these guys that they are concerned about the costs of Northern living. How much did the Yukon government spend to send govt people to Paris for an accord they gave two @&$@$ about. A little integrity from the govt would be nice, keep living the hypocracy Darrel

Up 25 Down 6

sandy vjj on May 3, 2016 at 3:08 pm

Tell the truth klondike mla. Let your constituents know how much your 10 cents per litre carbon tax will cost each year.

Up 10 Down 35

Get a clue on May 3, 2016 at 2:20 pm

These are the best and brightest in the North? At some point, we will have to pay for our emissions. The irony isn't lost that climate change opened the river to their right the earliest in recorded history.

Up 18 Down 8

June Jackson on May 3, 2016 at 2:19 pm

In the first place, the territories do not have the technology to capture all of the inherent carbon emissions.. how are they going to measure emissions from the landfills and garbage dumps? We don't have enough agriculture to merit carbon taxes on farming...(like cow poop ferments.. http://e360.yale.edu/feature/as_dairy_farms_grow_bigger_new_concerns_about_pollution/2768/ I guess the gov could put the onus on the business to capture industrial process emissions, not that we have a lot of that here right now with mines shutting down.. and of course carbon emissions, can be guesstimated and collected at the fuel pumps, same with household fuels... I would think there are also a lot of rogue emissions that can't be captured at all.

Had the governments proceeded with the implementation of a carbon tax..it would be nothing but a money grab. Another tax that would be poorly administrated and would in the end accomplish nothing for anyone.

Bottom line? The Yukon Party would love nothing better than to stick another tax on us.. but.. it is an election year and won't be popular with the voters. News flash big boy...nothing the Paslowski government has really been popular.

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