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Local chamber of commerce pleased with carbon tax fuel grants

The Lloydminster Chamber of Commerce is chalking up Thursday as a win.

Last week, the Alberta government unveiled a new grant program aimed at Alberta-side fuel retailers in the Border City, impacted by the province’s carbon tax. The new program is set to start on April 1, and will cover eligible sales retroactive to January 1, when Alberta’s carbon tax took effect.

Grants will cover the equivalent of 2.49 cents per litre of gasoline, 3.35 cents per litre of diesel, and 3.48 cents per litre of propane. It will cost $3 to $5 million in 2017-18, and will be drawn from carbon tax revenue. Application information for fuel retailers will be posted online closer to the start date of the program.

The unveiling of the program was welcome news to the local chamber, whose Political Action Committee (PAC) had first began discussion on the topic in September of 2016. The PAC, which is made up of chamber members, board members, and chamber staff, conducts community scans to figure out the pressing issues in Lloydminster.

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The PAC began to research the tax in September, and how it would impact the city due to the cross-border status of the community. Advocacy letters were sent to multiple Albertan cabinet ministers, and discussions with Alberta side MLA Richard Starke (PC) and the City of Lloydminster were conducted.

On Thursday, the announcement of the grant program caught the chamber by surprise, according to PAC chairperson Rob Saunders.

“We reacted to it as quickly as we could,” said Saunders.

“Good information, doesn’t matter how it comes. It’s got good intentions.”

Saunders called the grant program a reasonable solution, with the impact on local fuel retailers in mind. He also said the chamber will be very optimistic about the program, while waiting for grant applications to come out from the Alberta government.

“We’ll be conversing with our membership and the retailers in our city, to find out what that application actually looks like, and is it user friendly,” said Saunders.

“Is it going to be worth the time and effort, is it going to eliminate people or is it going to be inclusive? We’ll be watching closely.”

Saunders also noted the possibility of change in the program, depending on what the Saskatchewan government handles carbon taxation.

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“There is a possibility things could change, as always,” said Saunders.

“Of course, the Alberta government has made allowances for that, to revisit annually. It’s something to keep an eye on.”

Lastly, Saunders thanked Starke, and the city council of Lloydminster for their work on bringing the issue up in Edmonton. As for the Alberta government, he thanked them for “actually listening”.

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