Province’s carbon tax relief fund under fire by climate advocates

The provincial government recently released details on their most recent intervention intended to help everyday Manitobans cope in these tough economic times. This new initiative, called the Carbon Tax Relief Fund (CTRF), builds on the affordability package introduced by the province in 2022.

“Our government is committed to helping Manitobans make ends meet as they continue to face rising prices due to inflation and the largely hidden, federally imposed carbon tax,” says Premier Heather Stefanson. “We truly hope this new Carbon Tax Relief Fund will help ease the strain many families are facing this winter.”

Through this fund, $200 million has been pledged to assist seniors, singles, and couples who were living in Manitoba on December 31, 2021 and whose family net income that year was under $175,000.

Under these guidelines, approximately half of Manitobans will benefit from the financial relief package. Single persons can expect a one-time rebate of $225 while the lower income earner within a couple will receive $375.

Local environmental advocates, though, are calling out the province, stating that the CTRF fails both the people and the planet.

While they have no dispute that Manitoban households are, in fact, facing real financial challenges right now, rising fuel costs are a result of the greater global economy, they say, not the federally imposed carbon tax.

Curt Hull is a climate action advocate working with Climate Change Connection, a charitable organization aimed at educating Manitobans while facilitating workable solutions to the crisis on a local level.

He’s also the lead author of Manitoba’s Road to Resilience: A Community Climate Action Pathway to a Fossil Fuel Free Future.

“According to expert United Nations scientists, the world and Manitoba need to be working diligently to completely eliminate our reliance on fossil fuels within the next few years,” says Hull.

In the end, it is argued that reducing Manitoba’s dependence on fossil fuels will save residents more money than playing politics over the carbon tax.

Advocates assert that the province’s attention should be focused on creating a federal government partnership which could help fund quality, affordable, clean public transit in all Manitoba cities and towns, and also improve interprovincial transportation.

As well, they say it’s time to put an end to governmental subsidizing of fossil fuel industries and to introduce windfall taxation on corporations who are profiteering from inflation.

“Subsidizing fossil fuel use is the wrong approach,” Hull says. “Manitobans are already receiving adequate rebates from the carbon tax.”

Hull refers to the Climate Action Incentive, introduced by the federal government, which sends quarterly carbon tax compensation cheques to low- and middle-income Canadian households at a rate which is about double what the province is proposing with the CTRF.

“The agendas of the oil and gas companies have a lot more to do with your cost of living at the moment than the carbon price does,” says Emma Power, organizer of the Manitoba Energy Justice Coalition in a post written for Manitoba’s Climate Action Team. “The federal fuel charge is revenue neutral. They aren’t just keeping your money. Fuel charges collected in Manitoba stay in Manitoba and are redistributed to residents… The idea is that wealthy people and high-polluting organizations contribute more to the ‘pot’ of fuel charge money because they drive more, use more gas to heat large homes and buildings, etc.”

CCPA Senior Economist David Macdonald wrote an article this month for the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) titled “Where are Your Inflation Dollars Going?”

“Inflationary price increases aren’t ending up in workers’ pockets,” Macdonald writes. “They are ending up in corporate profits—particularly in oil, gas and mining.”

He adds that while a small fraction of the inflation dollars flowing to these industries is resulting in higher worker compensation, by far the majority ended up on the profit side of the analytics.

“As a clean energy hydroelectricity producing province, Manitoba should support our energy sovereignty and address the root cause of corporate oil and gas prices by enabling Manitobans to stop using fossil fuels in the first place,” says CCPA director Molly McCracken. “Polling consistently demonstrates that most Canadians support a carbon tax that funds green initiatives.”

Brenda Sawatzky, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Niverville Citizen