EDMONTON — On the eve of Alberta’s carbon tax heading to the chopping block, the province’s environment minister says green projects currently being funded by the levy will go ahead.
But Jason Nixon says once the Carbon Tax Repeal Act is passed and implemented by May 30, there will be nothing new.
“Projects that have already been approved will continue, but going forward no, they won’t,” Nixon, who is also the government house leader, told reporters Tuesday.
The spring session under new Premier Jason Kenney and his United Conservatives begins Wednesday.
There will be a speech from the throne to outline government plans, followed by the introduction of a bill to repeal the carbon tax.
Repealing the act was the signature promise of Kenney’s successful election campaign. He says the tax was a frontline failure, making no impact on greenhouse gas emissions while taking money from Alberta families.
The tax on fossil-fuel heating and gasoline at the pumps was phased in by former NDP premier Rachel Notley’s government in 2017 and has raised more than $2 billion.
Much of that money was rebated to low and middle-income Albertans while the rest funded a range of green projects ranging from solar panels and energy-saving light bulbs to light rail transit construction.
Once the tax is repealed, the federal government has indicated it will introduce a federal carbon tax in Alberta as it has done in other provinces that have balked at bringing in their own carbon levies.
NDP environment critic Marlin Schmidt said Alberta repealing its tax is an abdication of responsibility.
“They’re just going to scrap the carbon tax, let everybody else deal with the fallout, and turn over the responsibility for climate change and all the things people want to do in this province to Ottawa and Justin Trudeau,” said Schmidt.
Also Tuesday, Kenney and the 62 other members of the United Conservative caucus were officially sworn in as MLAs. They join 24 members of the Opposition NDP caucus, led by Notley, who were sworn in last week.
“It is my fervent hope that as legislators on all sides of the house that we can and will work together to stop the coarsening of our public discourse and to raise the bar of civility, decorum and respect in this — the people’s house,” Kenney told the new members.
Members also elected the UCP’s Nathan Cooper as the new Speaker of the house, replacing Bob Wanner.
Cooper, representing the riding of Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills, defeated NDP candidate Heather Sweet in a secret ballot.
He was then ceremonially dragged to the Speaker’s chair by Notley and Kenney as part of a tradition of forcing someone to take on the unenviable job.
Asked how he will keep debate respectful and honourable in a chamber known for fiery outbursts, the 39-year-old joked: “I’ll try my very best dad voice.”
Cooper said it will be a process of trial and error for both him and the politicians.
“Over a period of time, I hope that I’ll find my groove and be able to be effective yet also provide a sense of tradition to the assembly.”