Wilkinson says no carbon rebates for Saskatchewan after province says it won’t remit. Moe responds

The federal natural resources minister says Saskatchewan residents won’t get a carbon rebate, after the province announced Thursday it would stop remitting the levy on natural gas to Ottawa.

Jonathan Wilkinson told reporters the province’s move hurts lower income families in Saskatchewan, who would get more in rebates than they pay in levies.

It’s difficult to provide rebates when no money is being collected, he said.

“They will no longer get the rebate,” Wilkinson said in Ottawa.

“The rebate actually provides more money for most families in Saskatchewan.”

Premier Scott Moe had announced the province’s gas utility would stop collecting the carbon price from customers in January, and the province had until Thursday to remit those dollars.

SaskEnergy is breaking federal emissions law by choosing not to remit the levy, which could result in fines or jail time for executives. The Saskatchewan government has passed legislation that aims to shield executives from legal consequences, putting that burden on the province.

Wilkinson said Saskatchewan’s move is reckless, as the law to impose a carbon levy was upheld by the Supreme Court of Canada.

“(It’s) irresponsible and almost unheard of in the history of this country,” he said.

“Premiers, just like prime ministers, are responsible for passing laws and they expect their citizens to abide by those laws. If you do not have that expectation, you have anarchy.”

Federal Justice Minister Arif Virani said his job is to uphold the laws of the country.

“I’m not going to engage in hypotheticals about what (Saskatchewan)may or may not do in the future. When they actually take a step like that, we will deal with it accordingly,” he said.

Dustin Duncan, minister responsible for SaskEnergy, said the decision not to remit wasn’t taken lightly and the provincial government recognizes there may be consequences.

“This is also about fairness and our government refusing to allow (Prime Minister Justin) Trudeau to treat Saskatchewan people like second-class citizens,” Duncan said in a video message on the social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter, while standing outside the Parliament Buildings.

The Saskatchewan and Alberta governments have said it’s not fair Ottawa has exempted home heating oil from the carbon charge — a move that largely benefits Atlantic Canadians — and has not done the same for natural gas, used to warm homes on much of the Prairies.

Premier Scott Moe took to the social media platform “X” to say Saskatchewan shouldn’t pay any carbon tax at all.

Duncan said the average household in Saskatchewan is expected to save about $400 this year as a result of the province no longer collecting the charge on carbon. 

Wilkinson said the rebate for a family of four in Saskatchewan is $1,500 and, for those in rural communities it’s $1,800.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on Feb. 29, 2024. 

— With files from Mia Rabson and Stephanie Taylor in Ottawa

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