This is page numbers 6187 - 6288 of the Hansard for the 18th Assembly, 3rd Session. The original version can be accessed on the Legislative Assembly's website or by contacting the Legislative Assembly Library. The word of the day was public.

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Report Of Committee Of The Whole
Report Of Committee Of The Whole

August 21st

Page 6279

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Thank you. Do I have a seconder? Member for Mackenzie Delta. The motion is in order. All those in favour. All those opposed. The motion is carried.

---Carried

Masi. Item 22, third reading of bills. Minister of Environment and Natural Resources.

Bill 39: Environmental Rights Act
Third Reading Of Bills

August 21st

Page 6280

Robert C. McLeod Inuvik Twin Lakes

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I move, seconded by the honourable Member for Hay River South, that Bill 39, Environmental Rights Act, be read for the third time. Mr. Speaker, I would request a recorded vote. Thank you.

Bill 39: Environmental Rights Act
Third Reading Of Bills

August 21st

Page 6280

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

The Member is requesting a recorded vote. The motion is in order. To the motion.

Bill 39: Environmental Rights Act
Third Reading Of Bills

August 21st

Page 6280

Some Hon. Members

Question.

Bill 39: Environmental Rights Act
Third Reading Of Bills

August 21st

Page 6280

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Question has been called. All those in favour, please stand.

Recorded Vote
Third Reading Of Bills

August 21st, 2019

Page 6280

Clerk Of The House Mr. Tim Mercer

The Member for Inuvik Twin Lakes, the Member for Hay River South, the Member for Thebacha, the Member for Hay River North, the Member for Mackenzie Delta, the Member for Sahtu, the Member for Yellowknife North, the Member for Kam Lake, the Member for Nahendeh, the Member for Frame Lake, the Member for Yellowknife Centre, the Member for Deh Cho, the Member for Nunakput, the Member for Inuvik Boot Lake, the Member for Range Lake, the Member for Great Slave, the Member for Yellowknife South.

Recorded Vote
Third Reading Of Bills

August 21st

Page 6280

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. All those opposed, please stand. All those abstaining, please stand.

Recorded Vote
Third Reading Of Bills

August 21st

Page 6280

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

The results of the recorded vote are: 17 in favour, zero opposed, zero abstentions. The motion is carried.

---Carried

Bill 39 has had its third reading. Third reading of bills. Minister of Finance.

Bill 42: An Act to Amend the Petroleum Products Tax Act
Third Reading Of Bills

August 21st

Page 6280

Robert C. McLeod Inuvik Twin Lakes

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I move, seconded by the honourable Member for Yellowknife South, that Bill 42, An Act to amend the Petroleum Products Tax Act, be read for the third time. Mr. Speaker, I would request a recorded vote. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Bill 42: An Act to Amend the Petroleum Products Tax Act
Third Reading Of Bills

August 21st

Page 6280

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

The Member is requesting a recorded vote. The motion is in order. To the motion. Member for Yellowknife Centre.

Bill 42: An Act to Amend the Petroleum Products Tax Act
Third Reading Of Bills

August 21st

Page 6280

Julie Green Yellowknife Centre

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. During the debate about the carbon tax bill last week, I indicated that I was prepared to support it, but after reflecting on our discussions and doing some reading about carbon tax plans in other jurisdictions, I am no longer prepared to vote in favour of this bill.

There is a consensus among scientists and economists that putting a price on carbon lowers emissions and spurs innovation to find clean energy alternatives. For example, British Columbia has had a carbon tax for 11 years. Emissions have decreased by 4.7 percent over that period; and, contrary to the false claims of those who opposed the tax, it did not kill the economy. On the contrary, BC's real GDP has grown by 19 percent over the same period. That's in spite of the fact the carbon tax on fossil fuels is now double what the federal government has proposed.

Mr. Speaker, this government has never demonstrated anything but hostility to imposing a carbon tax to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, including condemnation of the federal plan. The Premier tells anyone who will listen that our territory produces so little carbon on a national basis that we shouldn't even bother with a carbon tax. That's in spite of the fact that warming has accelerated here and the effects disrupt residents and traditional land use and it is expensive to mitigate.

Mr. Speaker, here's a bulletin: size doesn't matter. NWT has a small population compared to all of Canada and Canada has a small population compared to the rest of the planet. Does that mean we shouldn't respond to the climate crisis? My answer is no. The planet is burning up and it's on all of us, individuals, and all orders of government, business, and industry to figure out how we can be part of the solution rather than part of the problem.

Mr. Speaker, problems with the development of NWT carbon tax legislation reach back to 2016 when the federal government introduced its Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change. The Premier followed the lead of his Conservative cronies who opposed the tax. He decided to go it alone in the Northwest Territories rather than work with the federal government on modifying its backstop to meet our unique circumstances. That was a mistake, Mr. Speaker, and the result is that we are worse off.

I am going to make a comparison to Yukon and Newfoundland and Labrador. Contrary to the Finance Minister's comments yesterday, there is every reason to compare the Northwest Territories with other jurisdictions. I find that the government makes comparisons to other jurisdictions when it suits them, as the Minister of Justice did yesterday, for example, with the Public Land Act.

Yukon faces many of the same issues as the NWT when it comes to the cost of living, and many communities in Labrador are as remote as the High Arctic communities in the Northwest Territories. Both jurisdictions negotiated the backstop with the federal government. The result is that they are paying 4.42 cents per litre on gasoline, while here, in the Northwest Territories, we are set to pay 4.7 cents per litre. Likewise, Yukon and Newfoundland and Labrador are paying 5.37 cents per litre on diesel while we will be paying 5.5 cents a litre. It turns out that taking the federal offer would have saved us money on gas, the expense that most NWT residents are most concerned about.

Our government has made much of the total rebate on home heating fuel, yet Newfoundland and Labrador has that, too, and there are also exemptions on aviation fuel, off-grid diesel electricity generation, and marine transportation, as well as fuel used for forestry, fishing, mineral exploration, and municipalities. Exemptions in the NWT are much less comprehensive. In short, we lost out. Why didn't the NWT emerge from negotiations with a similar sophisticated and comprehensive system of rebates and incentives?

Yukon and Newfoundland and Labrador started working with the federal government soon after the pan-Canadian framework was introduced in 2016. As a result, there was ample time to consult residents and write legislation. There was also time to create buy-in on the need to respond to the climate crisis at a personal level. In the NWT, the Finance Minister was unable to provide comprehensive and timely information that would have enabled the Standing Committee on Government Operations to do its job. The result is that the only public hearing was held in Yellowknife. Consulting Yellowknife is obviously not consulting the territory, given the number and diversity of communities in the NWT, and I understand why residents outside the capital feel short-changed.

Mr. Speaker, we are also losing out on rebates. In Yukon, there are specific rebates for a host of entities including individuals, businesses, industry, municipalities, and First Nations. Yes, the NWT plans to provide rebates, but -- and this is an important but -- the NWT Association of Communities predicts that the meagre rebate to municipalities will result in increased taxes levied in the regional communities and Yellowknife, who are tax-based. In Yukon, government is asking municipalities to pay a 0.5 percent tax on their fuel, and in return, they get 1 percent of carbon tax revenues. Why can't it be the same way in the Northwest Territories?

A vexing question for the Standing Committee on Government Operations has been management and reporting on the money collected. Yukon's response was to create a revolving fund, so that we could tell whether the money collected as a tax on carbon was being used to reduce carbon. That could have happened here. We have several revolving funds in place now, including for Yellowknife Airport and for Marine Transportation Services.

Mr. Speaker, let's turn to rebates. The GNWT is offering an individual rebate on the carbon tax, but the federal backstop rebates are more generous than those being offered in the NWT, by $80 a year for a family of four when fully implemented. Both Yukon and British Columbia offer additional rebates for individuals living in northern and remote areas. That is not a feature of the NWT legislation, even though the cost of living is obviously higher in those areas and a larger rebate makes sense. Other jurisdictions also apply means tests to their rebates so that there is more help available for low-income families than high-income families. BC provides benefits to low-income families by redistributing the carbon tax income. Again, that is a good idea, but it is not part of the NWT plan. Much more could have been done to shield residents in small communities from the impact of a carbon tax. After all, they currently have the fewest alternatives to burning fossil fuel.

There are then the rebates to large emitters, the industrial operations that produce the bulk of greenhouse gases. Newfoundland and Labrador set targets for individual industrial facilities to reduce their emissions by 2 percent a year from 2016-2017 benchmarks, and to engage in a cap and trade program. This system applies to iron ore mines located in Labrador, pulp and paper mills, and to electricity generation. In the NWT, by contrast, large emitters can expect a rebate of 75 percent of the tax paid and access to a fund for innovation, funded by the remaining 25 percent. They are being given a pass that is unprecedented in Yukon or Newfoundland and Labrador. The arrival of mines on the tundra increased our GHG emissions substantially. Why aren't we making polluters pay? Newfoundland and Labrador is doing it with mines that are nearly as remote as ours, located at the end of a 600-kilometre dirt road. Let's not forget, the Mining Association of Canada is on record in support of carbon taxes. They see carbon reduction as a necessary feature of responsible business.

Carbon taxes that are well-designed have a minimal impact on the economy. A study by the federal and territorial governments predict that our GDP will decline by less than 1 percent, while emissions in the mining sector are predicted to decrease by 0.5 percent in the first year and 2.1 percent by 2022 with a carbon tax in place.

The carbon tax proposed by this government is wanting in comparison to other jurisdictions on almost every front, from the public policy rationale through to the implementation. Although our production of greenhouse gas emissions may be comparatively small, our responsibility to reduce them is not. Harm is harm, and action is not an option; it is a necessity to take action. We had an opportunity to negotiate a better plan, better for residents and better for the planet, and we blew it. Perhaps saddest of all, we failed in the opportunity to rally our citizens to take a real part protecting our land, families, and way of life. I cannot vote in favour of this law. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Bill 42: An Act to Amend the Petroleum Products Tax Act
Third Reading Of Bills

August 21st

Page 6282

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. To the motion. Member for Yellowknife North.

Bill 42: An Act to Amend the Petroleum Products Tax Act
Third Reading Of Bills

August 21st

Page 6282

Cory Vanthuyne Yellowknife North

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. While I appreciate that some other Members are going to speak this evening, possibly with regard to, "Maybe we could have negotiated a better deal," my position all along has been that I do not support a carbon tax, whether it is coming from this government or whether it is coming from the federal government.

I believe that we are already penalized severely for where we live. This is a dark, cold territory for eight months of the year. We are already penalized for being in this region. We are also further penalized by the cost of living. It is 20 to 30 percent more expensive to live here; other than maybe Nunavut, we are the second-highest jurisdiction in the country to afford to live in and do business in.

Thirdly, we are also penalized by not having any options, Mr. Speaker. We do not have any affordable options. We cannot decide to maybe go and buy an electric-powered vehicle, because here, unlike, say, Alberta, where it is 8 cents a kilowatt hour, our power is 38 cents a kilowatt hour. Just the affordability is not there. It just makes no sense to do that sort of thing.

We do not have cheap fuel options. We do not have natural gas like most of southern Canada has, which is much more affordable than diesel. We just clearly do not have the options. We live in a cold climate where we are penalized. We already live in a higher cost of living jurisdiction, and we don't have options to switch over to. Yet, the federal and our government feel that it is necessary to apply such a tax.

We don't need our behaviour changed, Mr. Speaker, and why? Because we are already doing good things. We were doing these good things long before a discussion of carbon tax came along.

Let's look at government. Government, through our capital asset retrofit program, has been making improvements for eons, improvements that are paying back, by the way, making energy efficiency and savings for tax payers. These have a positive return on investment.

Other orders of government are starting to look at district energy systems. We have all been putting in biomass heaters and boilers in all of our government-owned assets for some period of time now. Why? Because these are the kinds of things that we have to look at in order to lower our energy rates.

Let's talk about, for a moment, what government is doing in terms of leading by example in other areas. We have the Inuvik windmill farm that is going to be coming. We see industry using other options. Diavik has a windmill farm. We have solar panels popping up all over the place. We have communities starting to talk about new microgrids and other alternatives. We have potential for geothermal in the Deh Cho region. These are all things that we were talking about and planning and strategizing about long before anybody felt that they need to slap a carbon tax on us.

Mr. Speaker, we are also doing good things as it relates to enacting legislation and regulations. We have been doing that for a long time. Municipal governments have been doing that for a long time. EnerGuide 80 is a good thing that you can look at towards regulations that are starting to have a positive effect now. We put that in a number of years ago. People are building more energy-efficient homes.

The municipality of the City of Yellowknife now has an energy retrofit program that they are going to be able to put in place, because we enabled them through changing legislation of the Cities, Towns and Villages Act that people can now apply to and have a more affordable way in which to put energy retrofits into their house, because they, too, want to live more affordably, first and foremost, but secondly, they want to reduce their carbon footprint.

Again, we are going to be increasing the Arctic Energy Alliance's budget by nearly double over the next four years. That means that we are going to be giving more rebates back to people. That will incentivize them to put in better energy-efficient appliances, pellet boilers, and pellet stoves, maybe replace some windows, things like that.

It doesn't matter where you look, whether it's government, whether it's industry, whether it's communities, or whether it's individuals; due to where we live, and due to not having other options, we have been doing all the right things for a long, long time. It is shameful that the federal Government of Canada felt that the 100,000 people who live in the Yukon, Northwest Territories, and Nunavut, who are the ones that are most impacted by climate change, somehow needed to be slapped a tax on so that they could change their behaviour somehow. This is shameful. I will not be supporting this. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Bill 42: An Act to Amend the Petroleum Products Tax Act
Third Reading Of Bills

August 21st

Page 6283

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. To the motion. Member for Kam Lake.

Bill 42: An Act to Amend the Petroleum Products Tax Act
Third Reading Of Bills

August 21st

Page 6283

Kieron Testart Kam Lake

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Northerners expect real climate change leadership, and that means a plan that works for the NWT. The plan that is being proposed by the GNWT that is central on Bill 42 does not achieve that goal. Only one model of carbon pricing was explored and developed without adequate legislative oversight or public engagement.

Although I support some form of carbon pricing in principle, such as a cap and trade system, I cannot support this plan that leaves unelected public servants responsible for new taxes and rebates without approval by Members of this House, not to mention the significant flaws with the plan as it was laid out and has already been thoroughly debated by this honourable House.

With so many decisions being pushed off to the next Assembly, there is no reason, apart from political pressure from Ottawa, why carbon tax can't wait another four months. Premier Kenney, our Premier's new ally in pursuing the NWT's agenda on the national stage, stood up to the federal government when he received a mandate from Albertans. That's what the people voted for in Alberta, and now they have received an extension until January 1st. Yet we stand down as soon as one email is sent from one political staffer.

Mr. Speaker, Northerners deserve a better plan than this, and I will not be supporting this bill. Thank you.