Since Monday, the nation’s attention has been on Saskatchewan, as Premier Scott Moe announced the government was directing SaskEnergy to, effective January 1st, stop collecting and remitting the federal carbon tax. The move came just days after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced there would be a three-year pause on the collection of the carbon tax on home heating oil. He had made the announcement in Atlantic Canada, the region where heating oil is more often seen.
Dustin Duncan is the MLA for Weyburn-Big Muddy and is also the Minister Responsible for SaskEnergy. He had been in discussions with Moe since the exemption was initially announced, and they wanted to react quickly after the announcement by the Prime Minister.
“We wanted to really make the call to say that the federal government needs to treat us all fairly across Canada, and certainly that’s received a lot of support from Canadians and other Canadian governments, provincial governments, across the country,” said Duncan. He noted there has been outrage over the decision by the federal government especially after it had been announced previously there would be no exemptions made under the carbon tax.
While the initial conversation was over the announcement by Moe, now much of the attention is focusing on the legality, and unprecedented nature of the move to not collect the carbon tax. Duncan pointed to the language of the Greenhouse Gas and Pollution Pricing Act itself, which proscribes the ability to levy fines as well as criminal charges and potentially jail for offending individuals and companies. While SaskEnergy is a Crown corporation, it is still a company, with the Government of Saskatchewan being the sole shareholder.
Duncan explained they are taking steps to ensure the board of the company doesn’t get in hot water, as they aren’t the ones making the decisions.
“We will be looking for legal remedies to indemnify officers and board members so that they don’t face the consequences, or bear the weight of the consequences, and so we’re still actively looking at what legal or regulatory remedies we may have.”
Since the announcement by Moe, the federal government has stated there will be no more exemptions made throughout the country, which has many wondering who will blink first. Duncan, though, said they have plenty of time to wait to see if the federal government will remove the carbon tax on home heating for the rest of the country before the January 1st deadline. However, the remittance of the carbon tax is the part that is technically running afoul of the law, if it comes to that.
“We decide how the carbon tax is collected – that's our choice,” Duncan clarified. “It is the federal legislation that dictates how it is remitted and when it’s remitted, and so we have two months before the decision is made to stop collecting, and about three months to decide whether or not we’re going to remit, so we got a couple months to go, and we’re hopeful that the Prime Minister will reconsider his position.”
That position may not change, but the House of Commons could force the matter. It is expected Conservative Party of Canada’s leader, Pierre Poilievre, will introduce a motion Thursday in the House forcing all MPS to vote next week on extending the pause on home heating to all Canadians.