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UCP candidate walks back alarm on $50K carbon tax for her church

EDMONTON — A candidate for Alberta’s United Conservatives who stirred up controversy by announcing her church is facing a $50,000 carbon tax bill this year now says the actual number is about one−tenth of that.

“I reported the initial figure in good faith and did not intend to mislead,” Michaela Glasgo said in a Facebook post Monday.

But Glasgo, the UCP candidate for Brooks−Medicine Hat, said the carbon levy is still too high — even at the revised figure of $5,400.

“This is still a sizable sum for a not−for−profit that is already dealing with the burden of increased costs, and I do not think the impact should be downplayed,” she wrote.

Steve Pahl, lead pastor with Hillcrest Evangelical Missionary Church in Medicine Hat, said the comments came out after a Sunday service.

“We spoke to our congregation about increases to our overall church operating costs,” Pahl said in a statement.

“We stated that in recent years there has been an increase to our overall operating costs of about $50,000 per year. The carbon tax was used as one example of the kind of increases we have incurred.

“Someone misunderstood that to mean the carbon tax was responsible for the entire $50,0000 increase and tweeted about it.

“For us the carbon tax is not a political issue. We are more than happy to pay our bills, whatever they are and need to be. Many people in our congregation are concerned about environmental issues.”

Glasgo stirred up controversy on Twitter Sunday after she mistakenly reported the $50,000 number.

Her post was met with a series of mocking online responses comparing her to the duplicitous Pinocchio and demanding she name the church and provide proof of the tax bill.

UCP Leader Jason Kenney initially defended her post, noting that it’s one of many such financial hardship stories he is hearing.

In the first of two followup Facebook posts Monday morning, Glasgo doubled down on her initial Tweet, saying that the church is very large, with adjoining facilities that extend beyond the main area of worship. 

“People can mock if they like,” she wrote.

Three hours after that post, however, Glasgo sent out a second Facebook post detailing her discussion with the church and the church’s estimated carbon tax bill of $5,443.

The carbon tax was introduced in 2017 by Premier Rachel Notley’s government. It taxes gasoline to drive as well as natural gas to heat homes and businesses. Rebates are available for low and middle−income earners.

Kenney has signalled it will be the centrepiece issue of their campaign in the upcoming spring election.

Kenney says Notley never campaigned on introducing the tax when she won government in 2015. He adds that the tax only hurts workers and families while failing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and is symbolic of an interventionist, misguided NDP.

He has promised the first task of a new UCP government would be to repeal the carbon tax.

Environment ministry spokesman Matt Dykstra, in a statement, said the Glasgo contretemps speaks to a larger concern with the UCP.

“All candidates for public office and their leaders have a responsibility to check the facts and think critically before sharing information on social media,” said Dykstra.

“Time and time again Jason Kenney and the UCP have shown a blatant disregard for the truth in pursuit of pushing misinformation to stir anger.

“It’s a divisive, Trump−esque political strategy unbecoming of someone who is seeking to hold the highest public office in our province.”

Christine Myatt, spokesperson for the UCP, said the NDP should not cast stones.

“I would point out that the NDP wilfully shares misinformation about the UCP on a regular basis,” said Myatt in a statement.

“Ms. Glasgo made an honest error and had no intention of misleading the public.”