14th October 2016

Earlier this month, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced his government’s plans to introduce a tax on carbon emissions beginning in 2018 in an effort to meet the guidelines set forth in the Paris Climate Change Agreement.

The announcement came October 3, 2016 as Trudeau addressed parliament. Politicians started debating whether Canada should approve the agreement made in Paris. The House of Commons ratified the Paris accord by an overwhelming majority just two days later. The agreement will attempt to keep global warming below two degrees centigrade in the 21st century and will come into effect on Nov. 4.  Canada joins 60 other nations that have ratified the agreement to halt climate change.

Applying the carbon tax will fall on individual provinces and territories, as is stated in the Vancouver Declaration, either by setting up a direct tax on emissions of at least $10 Canadian per ton or by imposing a cap-and-trade system. Either way, each province and territory must apply one of these methods for taxing carbon emissions by 2018 or the federal government will enforce a tax of $10 a ton with an ascending scale of $10 per ton per year until it reaches $50 per ton by 2022. The prime minister said that although past inaction regarding climate change cannot be undone, a ‘real and honest’ effort to protect the health of the environment and the people of Canada can be made.

Mr Trudeau believes that a carbon-based tax gives the country a leg up on other nations toiling with the decision. He argues that pricing carbon pollution, as it is called, will give business leaders motivation to find new and cost-effective ways to reduce emissions and provide the country with thousands of jobs in the clean energy sector all while making Canada’s economy cleaner. 

The prime minister isn’t the only one who feels this will be great for the country. Also in favor of the carbon tax is the Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Catherine McKeena. Of the day Canada voted to ratify the Paris Agreement she said it was ‘a great day’ for Canadians and that it marked a step forward after years of doing nothing under the previous government. The ratification of the Paris accord also signifies support of the Vancouver Declaration. McKeena also believes that the ratification will improve the Canadian economy.

Still, the enthusiasm Mr Trudeau shares with some of the members of his cabinet isn’t echoed by all throughout the House of Commons with criticism coming primarily from the Conservative Party. 

There has also been stinging comments made from province premiers, namely Saskatchewan premier Brad Wall, who criticized the prime minister for making the announcement suddenly and unilaterally without seeking common ground or a sensible timeline with the provinces. Wall believes the tax will impair his province’s already reeling economy due to lowered commodity prices and that Saskatchewan will be among the hardest hit by such a tax because of its trade expose resource industries.