On October 27, the Conservative Government of Manitoba released a discussion paper, The Made-in-Manitoba Climate and Green Plan , which announces a vision for the province to be Canada’s “cleanest, greenest and most climate resilient province.” It opens a brief public consultation period till November 30, with proposals organized around four stated “pillars” : climate, jobs, water and infrastructure. Although most of the attention has been focused on the carbon tax proposals, the Discussion Paper proposes dozens of possible initiatives, including electrification of Winnipeg’s transit, encouraging biofuels (e.g. by raising the provincial biodiesel mandate from two per cent to five per cent), and improving waste management to reduce methane emissions, among many others. Regarding jobs, the report states: “We need to focus on how to prosper through climate change and create new jobs and growth in the transition to a global low-carbon economy. Environmental services and clean technology are opportunity sectors for Manitoba companies.” The report presents potential initiatives to create jobs – (for example, reducing “green tape”, encouraging finance and capital markets) and to improve skills and training (e.g. through participation in the U.N. Green Youth Corps, or working with the private sector work “to develop a Clean Growth Talent Plan as part of a new Labour Market Strategy incorporating a focus on climate and sustainability jobs and skills. “)
The section on carbon pricing has attracted most attention because it so clearly misses the criteria laid out outlined by Environment and Climate Change Canada in The Pan-Canadian Approach to pricing carbon pollution (the Backstop plan) and the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change . Manitoba’s Discussion Paper proposes a carbon tax of $25 per tonne to remain in place till 2022 (only half of what the federal Framework Agreement calls for), with farm fuel use exempt. In a shift of its earlier position, however, Manitoba acknowledges the federal government’s legal right to impose a carbon tax plan on the province, but continues to insist on its uniqueness: “Any carbon pricing system in Manitoba must recognize two essential facts: First, Manitoba is already ‘clean’ given our hydroelectricity system with 98 per cent of electricity generated from non-carbon emitting sources. Second, Manitobans have already invested billions of dollars in building our clean energy system and are still doing so with the Keeyask Dam and the Bipole transmission line. Adding a $50 per tonne carbon price on Manitobans at the same time Hydro rates are rising is neither fair nor sensible.”
A thorough discussion of the proposed carbon tax comes from the Ecofiscal Commission. Headlines reflect the reaction to the $25 per tonne carbon tax: at CBC News: “Manitoba thumbs nose at Ottawa, sets own carbon tax scheme” , and “Proposed Manitoba carbon tax ‘will have to go up’: Federal environment minister”. “Manitoba defies feds, unveils its own carbon pricing plan” (Oct. 27) in the Winnipeg Free Press includes reaction from political parties and academics. Also in the Winnipeg Free Press, “Details hazy in Made-in-Manitoba Green plan” – which calls the Green Plan “the political equivalent of a Rubik’s Cube. It’s colourful, intriguing and almost impossible to figure out.” That was no doubt a topic at the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment conference in Vancouver on November 3.