Elements of the Federal Carbon Tax are set to be collected starting April 1st. There are many unanswered questions, not the least of which is how will the province's court case be resolved and how specifically will any money be directed.
Humboldt and District Chamber of Commerce Executive Director, Brent Fitzpatrick, shares some insights based on a provincial survey and perceptions of the local business community. First of all, Fitzpatrick explains the provincial scene and the desire to see environmental concerns addressed. He explains, "The Sask Chamber did a survey in December and what they found was the overwhelming majority of business owners felt that reducing greenhouse gas emissions is a good thing. The problem falls in how to hit those targets. The Federal government is using almost a penalty based structure where they're going to take money away and then put the money back into the province on targeting reductions on greenhouse emissions. The problem is how that is going to happen."
Fitzpatrick suggests that there are alternatives to simply rebating individuals or businesses portions of the money levied. The solution lies in providing a mechanism to reduce carbon emissions as the tax is intended. Fitzpatrick shares the feelings of the business community, "The Chamber and, I think, local businesses would agree the best way to do that could be investing in technology that will help reduce emissions and promote renewable resources."
Adding to the concern is the perception that there is no articulated plan for the estimated $300 million dollars that may be returned to the province. Fitzpatrick says, "I find it interesting that they've figured out how to grab the money; they haven't quite figured out how to reinvest the money. If it seemed like a solid logical business plan, the business community would have a look, but I think they would be ok -- if there was a plan."
All of the uncertainty is unsettling, but of greater concern to the business community is the fact that they will be faced with increased costs, some of which may have to be passed along to consumers. Fitzpatrick elaborates, "The business community knows that their products, goods and services are going up in price because of this." He believes this will have a particular impact on production for an international market because manufacturers must remain competitive in their respective marketplaces. In Fitzpatrick's words, "you can't simply go out and top it up a bit."
Once again, Fitzpatrick refers to the Provincial Chamber's survey when he confirms that there is a lot of uncertainty in the business community.