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Senator, minister spar over carbon tax; more exemptions needed in Nunavut, Patterson says

The federal carbon tax shouldn't be applicable to Nunavut hunters, fishers and private home owners, Sen. Dennis Patterson told Finance Minister Bill Morneau in the Senate on May 14.

Nunavut Senator Dennis Patterson: "It’s not fair to burden our struggling citizens with higher costs of living for hunting and fishing, and diesel for heating their homes." NNSL file photo

While Ottawa has granted exemptions for airline fuel for flights within the territory and for fuel that generates the territory's electricity, harvesters should also be able to avoid the tax, Patterson contended.

"Hunters and fishers... depend on gasoline to provide precious country food for our citizens," said Nunavut's senator. "Please also consider exempting home heating fuel and gasoline for hunters. We don’t use dog teams anymore or build iglus... It’s not fair to burden our struggling citizens with higher costs of living for hunting and fishing, and diesel for heating their homes when they have no alternative energy options... We still have no alternate energy; we have no wind, no solar and no hydro anywhere in Nunavut, despite your government’s infrastructure and green funds."

Patterson also pointed out that flights from the south carrying food and other goods will be subject to the tax, which will mean higher costs for consumers at retail stores.

Nunavut's carbon tax is set to take effect on July 1.

The cost per Nunavut household will vary but, according to an analysis by the territorial Department of Finance, the average household will pay $305 in carbon tax yearly based on 2018 emission levels. Because the carbon tax is set to rise in future years, the impact per average household is anticipated to be a little more than three times higher by 2022, the GN analysis states.

The federal government will start out with a $20 per tonne charge on carbon emissions but it will rise by $10 per tonne annually until 2022, when it will hit $50 per tonne.

However, in responding to Patterson, federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau echoed the government's repeated message that rebates will return 90 per cent of carbon taxes to families and individuals.

The other 10 per cent will go to municipalities, schools, health centres and small businesses.

It's heavier polluters, in the commercial and industrial sectors, that won't be eligible to recoup so much of the tax paid.

"We see that we have a responsibility to deal with climate change. We see that the environmental challenges that we’re facing are real," Morneau said in the Senate. "I can tell you that in my role as minister of Finance, I’ve had to deal with problems and emergencies. Every year that I’ve been in this job, I’ve been writing cheques for climate emergencies across the country."