The following are selected excerpts from MLA Hannah Bell's speech in the Legislature on March 25, 2022.
"In 2018, the Liberals sat on the floor in our office and told us about how they were going to do free drivers licenses and excise tax exemptions and basically nobody would notice that there was a carbon tax, and that would be fine. But now it’s 2022 and we have to be honest about it, and being honest about that is also being honest about the choices that this government is going to make with the “Climate Leadership Act” that they are presenting to this House. Mr Speaker, I cannot for the life of me understand how, when you have had 2+ years - almost 3 years - to negotiate with the federal government in good faith, that this is the best that this government could do.
…What I see is something that is designed to keep the maximum amount of revenue taken from every hard-working Islander in this province and putting it into general revenue for this government to do with it what they choose. We would be better off adopting the federal backstop that we have been advocating for from the beginning, because then 90% of the revenues collected - 90% - would be be returned to Islanders in the form of a rebate cheque on a quarterly basis, just like they’re getting in Alberta, Ontario, Manitoba and Saskatchewan. Instead, what this bill brings is a complicated tax amendment that will provide Islanders who earn less than $50,000 a year a one-time payment - one payment - of $140 for the WHOLE YEAR. That’s not enough to allow the average Islander to offset the rising costs of living… it doesn’t give them the incentive to transition to a greener lifestyle. 75% of that carbon tax revenue is being kept by government …who will pick winners and losers instead of letting Islanders decide how to spend their money.
Free heat pumps are a phenomenal program, but not everyone can get one. Rebates that aren’t accessible to everybody are not equitable. The Green Party is the only party that speaks about equity for ALL Islanders. Giving money that they have spend directly to Islanders lets them decide how they can best reduce their emissions, and that will look different for different families. It gives them a better ability to make the right choices that they know are right for them and their families. This is better than trying to cobble together some one-size-fits-all government program at the 11th hour, especially when what you’re offering Islanders is something that only covers a portion of the costs that they’re incurring - and you can’t participate if you can’t put up a portion of the funds. I am disappointed that the premier is willing to withhold tax relief from Islanders, because that’s what this program does.
A carbon price incentivizes a change in behaviour - it is not, nor has it ever intended to be seen as, a revenue source.
We can afford to do both. We can afford to provide the rebates, to invest in public transit to incentivize islanders to make green energy choices and encourage islanders to make the transition to energy efficient sources, to greening, to decarbonizing AND we can incentivize them with the carbon rebate as well - these are not mutually exclusive.
I cannot tell you how many times I am having to explain to ordinary Islanders why they are not getting the cheques that their friends and families are getting in other provinces - how can I explain to Islanders that they should be getting $1000 a year on a quarterly basis, and we might give them $140 instead if they’re lucky.
Carbon tax is a reality. This is no longer up for debate, we are no longer discussing the impact of climate change. We absolutely need to do this and we have less than eight years. We have less than eight years to move. We CANNOT wait any longer. But this approach, in this legislation, is actually going to make it more difficult.
I am absolutely in favour of every program that we can do and putting every priority - including choosing not to do other projects if necessary- to get everyone into a green heating source, into more effective transportation, by investing in public transit, by making everyone able to get off oil and into green solutions. But we cannot do that while taking money from Islanders and using it for projects that WE chose.”