ALBERTA

Alberta's Climate Change Plan Might Hit Rural Alberta Hard

11/23/2015 06:32 EST | Updated 11/23/2015 06:59 EST
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Alberta

EDMONTON — Groups are warning that Alberta's new climate change strategy will hit people who live in rural areas harder than people in cities.

The plan includes a carbon tax that the NDP government estimates will cost an average family about $500 a year by 2018 and about $960 by 2030.

Paige MacPherson of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation says many consumers will pay more to drive and to heat and power their homes. There will also be added costs for groceries and other goods, she says.

The changes will be felt more acutely outside of urban areas, she suggests.

"Anything that needs to be transported across our province — the price is going to go up.''

"In rural Alberta there is no bus to take if you need to get your kid to daycare or you need to get yourself to work,'' she said Monday.

"Anything that needs to be transported across our province — the price is going to go up.''

MacPherson also suggested the planned phase-out of coal-fired power plants will mean a loss of jobs and a shrinking tax base in small rural communities.

The federation bases its assumptions on a report it completed on the effects of British Columbia's carbon tax. The report, submitted to the B.C. government in 2012, determined that people in urban areas benefited by shifting their burden to people in rural areas and the suburbs.

It also found the tax put more pressure on the agriculture, manufacturing and resource sectors.

Alberta's plan calls for rebating part of the money raised by the carbon tax — about $3 billion in 2018 — to middle- and lower-income families. The province says about 60 per cent of households will receive some kind of refund.

The NDP government is not expected to spell out exactly how it will spend the carbon tax until next year.

Environment Minister Shannon Phillips said as the government develops its policy, it will work to ensure that the tax doesn't have "detrimental economic effects.''

"It could ultimately have a negative impact on the profitability of agriculture."

Al Kemmere, president of the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties, said people in rural areas care about the environment. But the carbon tax could be a challenge for the farm economy.

"We are fuel users when harvest goes on and crops get put in, and we may not have the ability to pass these costs back on to end users.

"It could ultimately have a negative impact on the profitability of agriculture,'' said Kemmere, who represents 69 rural municipalities.

He hopes the government will ensure some money raised by the carbon tax will directly benefit rural areas.

Jack Mintz of the University of Calgary School of Public Policy said the $3-billion levy is equivalent to bringing in a provincial sales tax.

"It is a pretty big tax. B.C. used the revenues to lower corporate tax rates and personal income tax rates. Alberta's revenues are going to be spent on transit, adjustment programs, energy efficiency,'' he said.

"It will hit more heavily [for] people in rural areas.''

Opposition Wildrose Leader Brian Jean said the plan could lead to dramatic power price spikes that businesses will pass on to consumers.

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