Richard Starke is not impressed with the Alberta NDP.
The MLA for Vermilion-Lloydminster questioned three senior cabinet ministers this week in the Alberta legislature, asking about the impacts the scheduled carbon tax could have on the Border City. During the address, Starke asked why Lloydminster was not being considered for exemption from the tax, and stressed that the imposition of the levy would undermine efforts to make the city a seamless jurisdiction.
The answers Starke received from Finance Minister Joe Ceci, Environment Minister Shannon Phillips, and Economic Development Minister Deren Bilous were brief, and to Starke’s mind, dismissive.
“It’s very clear that they don’t have a clue what the challenges are of trying to keep a single, cohesive city,” said Starke.
The MLA said that he had been getting feedback from constituents in Vermilion-Lloydminster concerned about the tax, with fuel retailers focused on a possible price difference on one side of the city versus the other. He also said he had received a briefing from the Lloydminster Chamber of Commerce, which had researched the local economic impacts of the tax.
Starke’s other concern was the apparent lack of knowledge from the ministers that their staff had already been meeting with local officials about the levy.
“This should not be news to these ministers,” said Starke.
“That was the other thing that really bothered me, officials within both of these ministers departments have been aware of this for weeks, and they promised the City and they promised the Chamber of Commerce an answer, and there has been nothing forthcoming from this government.”
During the exchange in the Legislature, Bilous had pointed out that the Saskatchewan side of the city would also be subject to a carbon tax once the federal legislation is in place. Starke did not agree with the minister’s view.
“It’s so dismissive,” said Starke.
“The federal carbon tax doesn’t kick in until 2018, and it’ll be $10 a tonne. By that time, the Alberta carbon tax will be $30. We’re talking about a discrepancy that starts January 1st of this year, and will continue after that. For him to say that, he’s being completely flippant, and dismissive and disrespectful to the people of Lloydminster.”
As for what Starke plans to do about the possible cross-border difference, he pointed out that the Lloydminster Charter has mechanisms to deal with legislation impacting one side, versus the other.
“That’s either by agreeing to not implement the change on one side, and that’s what Saskatchewan has done with the provincial sales tax, or agree that a change done on one side of the border will apply to the entire city, and that’s been done in the past as well,” said Starke.
“I spoke with Mayor Aalbers a couple days ago, and certainly we are quite prepared to support any efforts of City Council, of the Chamber of Commerce, or of the business people in Lloydminster that are impacted by this. I will give them any support and assistance possible to try to address this problem.”
The carbon tax is scheduled to come into effect in the New Year, at $20 per tonne.