July 17, 2018

Green Taxes Push Out Green Industry

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Saskatchewan people understand that a carbon tax would drive up the costs of just about everything from gas and groceries to the clothing we wear. But few would think that it has been driving out one of the greenest industries (it’s in the name) in the country.

Across Canada, the greenhouse vegetable industry has been hurt by carbon taxes. Of the four largest greenhouse regions in Canada, three (Ontario, Alberta, and B.C.) are being adversely affected by carbon taxes right now. For some growers, carbon taxation is affecting their long-term viability.

The Canadian greenhouse vegetable sector is the largest and one of the fastest growing segments of Canadian horticulture, most notably in Ontario, which has 2,900 acres of greenhouses that employed over 11,000 people in 2016. But since 2012 the Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers estimates $220 million has been invested by Ontario producers to move operations into the United States. Rising power rates due to carbon taxes have been identified as one of the largest reasons for this loss of investment and the jobs that go with it.

A carbon tax simply makes provinces less competitive than other places without one, as the greenhouse industry is now finding out. Due to the unsustainable costs of a carbon tax, greenhouses are being driven out of business entirely or forced to relocate to northern states like Michigan or Ohio. The Trudeau government refers to this as “carbon leakage,” but most people would simply call it lost jobs.

Almost everyone in Saskatchewan is connected to the farm in some way and knows what the Saskatchewan government has been saying about its Agriculture industry: plants in Saskatchewan fields or Ontario greenhouses consume carbon dioxide. They are part of the solution to climate change, not the problem.

Until the new Ford government announced it would scrap the Ontario cap-and-trade system, businesses had been buying allowances from Ontario, Quebec or California for every tonne of industrial carbon dioxide they emit. It is estimated Ontario businesses would buy the vast majority of their allowances from California, which set itself an easier cap and therefore has more available allowances. Allowance purchases from California were estimated to cost Ontario about $250 million by 2020 and up to $2.2 billion annually by 2030. Sending billions of dollars to one of the richest jurisdictions on earth instead of reducing emissions at home doesn’t make sense.

A recent report from the University of Regina estimates the Trudeau carbon tax will reduce Saskatchewan’s GDP by almost $16 billion, with little effect on actual emissions.

We don’t need taxes that drive opportunities for businesses like greenhouses out of Canada. As more and more Canadians realize that, we’re seeing provinces like Ontario and Prince Edward Island join Saskatchewan in standing up for their citizens and saying no to an ineffective tax from Ottawa.

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Greg Lawrence is the MLA for Moose Jaw Wakamow and serves as Saskatchewan Military Liaison, the Saskatchewan Party government’s main contact with the Department of National Defence and Canadian Forces in Saskatchewan