Manitoba joins the Pan-Canadian Framework, leaving Saskatchewan the odd-man-out

Facing a deadline of February 28 to qualify for approximately $67 million in federal funding through the  Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change, the province of Manitoba announced on February 23 that it will sign on to the Framework agreement.  However, the province will not compromise on its flat $25-a-tonne carbon price, as outlined in its Made-in-Manitoba climate policy document (October 2017).  Manitoba’s letter announcing its adoption of the Pan-Canadian Framework is here .  The federal government’s letter welcoming  Manitoba is here , stating that Manitoba will only be in compliance with the carbon pricing provisions until 2019. Ottawa has stated that it will review each province’s carbon price plan every year starting in 2019, thus postponing until then any further conflict over the federal standard of a $50 per tonne carbon price . Details of the $2Billion Low Carbon Economy Fund, for which Manitoba now qualifies,are here.

According to a CBC report (Feb. 26), Saskatchewan is now the only province not part of the Pan-Canadian Framework, and the federal government is “just waiting” and hoping that they will commit.  New Premier Scott Moe, so far, is holding to the policies outlined in Prairie Resilience: A Made-in-Saskatchewan Climate Change Strategy, released in December 2017 under previous Premier Brad Wall – a strong opponent of a carbon tax.

Made-in-Manitoba Green Plan proposes a $25 per tonne carbon tax

Manitoba climate plan coverOn 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.

Manitoba introduces Environmental Rights Act with Whistleblower rights

On March 2, 2016,  the Government of Manitoba introduced Bill 20, the Environmental Rights Act  , summarized at the Environmental Law Centre ( Alberta) blog .  The Act incorporates fundamental environmental law principles:  precautionary principle; polluter pays principle; principle of sustainable development; principle of intergenerational equity; and principle of environmental justice.  The Bill also includes  Employee Protection from Reprisals, which states that  “An employee who uses a measure set out in the Bill to protect the environment is protected from any reprisal from their employer. ”

Update:  The EcoJustice  blog, A Tale of Two Provinces highlights the many strengths of the Manitoba legislation, and compares the reforms with  Ontario’s  Environmental Bill of Rights.  However, with the election call in Manitoba, Bill 20 died on the Order Paper.  The Manitoba election will take place on April 19 – see CBC coverage here.

Manitoba Social Enterprise Program Trains Disadvantaged Workers for Jobs in Clean Energy, Retrofitting

The Manitoba Research Alliance, part of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, recently released a report which summarizes the activities of three Manitoba social enterprises: Aki Energy ( training geothermal energy installers); Meechim Foods (a food sovereignity project northwest of Winnipeg), and the Brandon Energy Efficiency Program (BEEP) (training for green retrofitting at public housing). Most of the workers involved in training and job placements are disadvantaged Aboriginal workers. The report, Government Support for Social Enterprise Can Reduce Poverty and Green House Gases  also examines the legislation and policies that support these initiatives, and the important role that Manitoba Hydro and Manitoba Housing play in providing work opportunities for trainees. Considering the future after the next provincial election in April 2016, the author states: “If Manitoba were to follow Ontario’s example and privatize Hydro the damage would be considerable”. The report is summarized in a January 13 article  in

Manitoba commits to Environmental Bill of Rights in Throne Speech

Manitoba’s Throne Speech, delivered on November 16 , has committed the government to a new law which will enshrine “the right of every Manitoban to a healthy environment”. An Ecojustice blog provides context . The Premier had also announced in October that the province will invest $400,000 over the next two years in a new research centre, the Prairie Climate Centre, at the University of Winnipeg .