EDMONTON – Alberta’s Opposition leader says he would repeal the sweeping changes the NDP government is making in the electricity and fossil-fuel sectors if his party wins the next election.
Wildrose Leader Brian Jean said the changes now underway will saddle families with crushing debt and bleed away thousands of jobs if they aren’t reversed.
“Families will be forking out $2,500 a year in extra taxes to pay for tens of billions of dollars in corporate welfare handouts and green slush funds,” Jean told the house during question period Thursday.
“Parents will see busing fees jacked up for their kids, municipalities will be dinged big time …. charities will be picked dry by the millions, and businesses will be forced to pass their losses on to consumers.”
Premier Rachel Notley says investors and industry leaders are signing onto the NDP’s plan that she says will create jobs and stabilize the electricity industry as coal-fired power is phased out.
She said the Wildrose plan would lead to lost jobs and revenue, and would be foolhardy given that the federal government has already announced it will impose a carbon price on non-complying provinces and phase out coal-fired electricity by 2030.
“The member opposite really doesn’t get it,” Notley told the house.
She said Alberta can move ahead with its climate plan “or we can hand the whole thing over to Ottawa, cover our ears, and shout angry tweets out east.
“(But) that doesn’t help Albertans. We’re going to do the right thing.”
Alberta is moving on a number of fronts on the climate and power file.
It is capping power charges in the short term as it moves away from deregulation to a system that will see the province pay to ensure there is always enough capacity on the grid.
The government has cut a deal with power providers to shut down coal-fired electricity by 2030 and move exclusively to natural gas, wind, solar and hydro energy instead.
Alberta is also bringing in a broad-based carbon tax in January, increasing the cost of gasoline at the pumps and home and business heating bills.
Notley says the changes are critical not only for the environment but to show that resource development and environmental stewardship don’t have to be mutually exclusive.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, on Tuesday, cited Alberta’s climate change plan as a foundational piece allowing the federal government to approve two pipeline projects.
One is an expansion of Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain line to triple the capacity of crude from Edmonton to Burnaby, B.C., and then on to tankers and more lucrative markets in Asia.
Alberta has said it needs to diversify its markets away from North America to get a better price as it battles through a prolonged oil price slump.
In return Notley has signed on to the federal carbon pricing plan, which will reach $50 a tonne by 2022. Alberta’s carbon price currently maxes out at $30 tonne.
Notley said the Wildrose plan undermine the Trans Mountain line, which still faces regulatory hurdles and strong opposition from environmentalists and First Nations groups.
Jean accused Notley of selling out Albertans by agreeing to the $50 levy.
“The NDP cares more about impressing elites than doing the right thing by Alberta’s working families,” said Jean.
“When Ottawa says jump, the NDP says ‘How high?”