The Saskatchewan provincial election will be taking place October 26, and the World-Spectator spoke with candidates in Moosomin, Melville-Saltcoats, and Cannington about climate change with a focus on the carbon tax and each parties climate plan—the Sask Parties Prairie Resilience Plan and the NDP’s Renew Saskatchewan Plan.
Steven Bonk, Sask Party
Moosomin Sask Party candidate Steven Bonk firmly opposes the federal carbon tax and believes it’s doing far more harm than good.
“We find the carbon tax to be very ineffective,” said Bonk. “It doesn’t actually do anything to reduce carbon emissions or to help climate change, but it sure does affect businesses and impact families. There’s a better way and if you look at the Prairie Resilience Program that our province put forward, this is a true results-driven program.
“If people would take a closer look at that, they’ll see this is a very credible alternative to what the federal government has proposed in the form of a carbon tax and what the NDP is proposing in the form of a carbon tax.”
With the advancements agriculture has made over the years in improving their practices to be more environmentally friendly, Bonk doesn’t think forcing a tax is the effective way to continue advancements in the industry.
“We’re fighting the federal carbon tax in court,” he said. “This is something that we definitely don’t support. I’m someone who’s been involved in agriculture my whole life and I would call myself a green conservative. I’ve taught in four continents about sustainable regenerative agriculture. This is something I care deeply about and what we can do by proper management in agriculture far exceeds the amount of change that the federal government thinks they will get by imposing a carbon tax on us, which actually does more harm than good by a long measure.
“By properly managing the grasslands and through zero till for example, we’re doing so much more. A big problem with the way the federal government has calculated the emissions from agriculture is that they’re using 2005 as a baseline for their carbon tax measurement. We were so far ahead of the curve in this province, zero till was adopted much earlier than that and we’ve made huge advancements in the amount of carbon and organic matter we’re storing in our soil.”
The Sask Party’s Prairie Resilience Program focusses on the climatic, economic and policy impacts of climate change at the provincial level opposed to a federal tax broadly imposed on every Canadian, says Bonk.
“The carbon tax is ideologically driven, as opposed to results driven,” he said. “I think that’s our main concern. In Saskatchewan we’re very pragmatic, practical people. We work hard, we do our jobs, and we hope to get paid at the end of the day. The federal government is unilaterally imposing a one size fits all solution on our province and we think there’s a much better way and we’ve outlined that in our Prairie Resilience Program.”
Ken Burton, NDP
A farmer himself, Moosomin NDP candidate Ken Burton understands the negativity towers the carbon tax, but believes it’s another step to evolving the way things are done in the agriculture industry.
“The carbon tax deals more harshly with people who are large users of fossil fuels, that’s obvious,” said Burton. “The agricultural community is a large user, but I also believe that the only way to change people’s practices is to have some kind of financial disincentive to decrease the use of carbon fuels and offset the emissions into the atmosphere. We have to find ways of deterring people from using the fuels that are causing the problem.
“When it becomes an economic issue, as it has been with farmers—I happen to be a farmer myself, I’ve been farming for 45 years so I recognize it takes time to adjust practices—we have to find ways to reduce our carbon footprint and when we can’t, we have to find ways to offset that in other industries.”
Although he supports the carbon tax, Burton says farmers should be compensated in some way for their efforts to decrease the environmental impact their practices have on the earth.
“We have to recognize that farmers have done a very good job of reducing the overall carbon footprint,” he said. “Zero till and minimum till, those are instances where great strides have been made in the agricultural industry and we don’t have a system of recognizing that and the agricultural industry’s sequestering of carbon that we keep in the soil.
“There’s many agricultural practices increasing the amount of carbon that we’re actually producing and we need to find ways to reward the farmers financially that are doing that.”
Warren Kaeding, Sask Party
The Prairie Resilience Plan is the best way to deal with the effects of climate change in the province says Melville-Saltcoats Sask Party candidate Warren Kaeding.
“The carbon tax right now from what we see at the federal level is not going to be terribly effective in reducing carbon,” said Kaeding. “The Prairie Resilience Plan that we’ve developed has three key quality standards. The Output-Based Performance Standards, the Methane Action Plan, and what we’re doing locally to reduce greenhouse gas in the province. I think that’s what it takes—homegrown ingenuity. It really should be in the hands of provincial experts that best know the industry and work in the industry.
“Everyone is well aware that we need to reduce the greenhouse gasses that we’re emitting and—I like to use the word creativity— we need to work with our own local businesses, local manufacturers, local industrial entities, and just focus on what can we do locally here that will not hinder opportunity and potential for growth and be looking towards the future of reducing greenhouse gasses. I like the Prairie Resilience Plan, I think that’s the method that we should be using as we go forward.”
A focus on local and provincial improvements in agriculture has seen Saskatchewan become a leader in the world, and Kaeding thinks that’s what the federal government should focus on with climate change instead of a carbon tax.
“We’ve used a lot of local opportunities,” he said. “I just look at the carbon capture facility in Estevan and as much as we are the leaders in technology in that area, now you look at the growth in carbon capture units across North America—certainly in the oil production jurisdictions of North America. Now you even see the whole carbon capture process evolving around the world. We were the leaders in that area and that’s the kind of ingenuity that I believe our manufacturers and our industrial entities can be looking forward to in the future.”
Bonnie Galenzoski, NDP
Melville-Saltcoats NDP candidate Bonnie Galenzoski says if Scott Moe put more effort into an a response to the carbon tax then a better alternative could have been implemented.
“I do (see an alternative option to the carbon tax),” said Galenzoski. “When our present premier was given the choice of coming up with a response from Saskatchewan to mitigate the carbon tax effect on the people of Saskatchewan, instead it was kind of offloaded onto the people of Saskatchewan to pay for it. Then instead of having a plan, the present premier goes and attacks the carbon tax.
“The NDP under Ryan Meili have a really good plan for Renew Saskatchewan that allows us to use some of those renewable resources that are already here. We’ve got solar, wind, and fuel for thermal potential. We have all those things here and they’re not being developed. Those would actually meet the carbon tax demands and also create thousands of jobs, and not only that, but we can look back and actually know we’re presenting a better future for our children and grandchildren. We have to have our own plan to deal with climate change.”
Daryl Harrison, Sask Party
Implementing a federal carbon tax isn’t the answer says Cannington Sask Party candidate Daryl Harrison. He believes the fight against climate change should be done at a provincial level.
“I’m opposed to the federally imposed carbon tax that is now currently before the Supreme Court,” said Harrison. “It’s about the carbon tax, but it’s also about provincial jurisdiction and that’s what the Supreme Court is going to have to decide.”
Harrison doesn’t think taxing people will solve the problem and with the technology and advancements in agriculture there’s a better way to make an impact in Saskatchewan.
“Emissions can be reduced with technology, not just by people paying more taxes,” he said. “Paying more taxes doesn’t make it go away. The carbon capture at Boundary Dam is a good example of technology and how it can be effective. Power generation is important to every person and you’ll find wind and solar being constructed, it’s not base load power but it certainly fills part of the demand. Going forward if it’s more carbon capture or natural gas fired generation or geothermal, SaskPower is going to be exploring all of those options in how they can invest the right power to the citizens of Saskatchewan.”
All the carbon tax is doing is hurting businesses and families in the province and it’s not fighting climate change, said Harrison.
“The federal governments carbon tax was imposed on Saskatchewan people, the whole premiss of that is to make the cost of fossil fuel so high that you are forcing the wallet of people to do less or pay a higher alternative to their farming or business operation or their own household,” he said.
Dianne Twietmeyer, NDP
Cannington NDP candidate Dianne Twietmeyer thinks there’s a misunderstanding around the implementation of the carbon tax in Saskatchewan and says it’s worked in other countries.
“I know that the carbon tax has worked in other jurisdictions around the world,” said Twietmeyer. “I think the fact that the federal government does rebate it back to the province—perhaps a lot of people don’t realize that and they’re against it because they only see it going out—people don’t realize they’re supposed to apply for their rebates when they do their taxes. If the money is coming back to the province then really more people have to understand that all it’s doing by having a carbon tax is making you pay a little extra to encourage you to use less. If you’re getting a rebate on what you pay anyway, then it’s really not such a hardship.”
With the carbon tax having a negative impact on the agriculture industry, Twietmeyer would like to see those people be given a break on the tax because of the essential work they do for Canada.
“What I would like to see—and the NDP has said they’ll try to do—is to get a reduction for farmers for grain drying,” she said. “I would like to see the carbon tax be taken right away from people doing essential work, like growing food. I realize farming does use a lot of fuel but the farmers are growing our fuel so let’s make life a little easier for them. There may be other areas where it could be reduced or removed where it might be causing unnecessary hardship in essential areas of the economy.
“Around the world there has been success with it and I think when people allow themselves to realize that it really isn’t hurting them as much as they think then they’ll be able to get on board with it. Perhaps in Saskatchewan we just don’t have that mind frame, especially because we live in a very cold climate and we have to use a lot of fuel and it does make a difference.”