Last week The Office of the Third Party released our Carbon Pricing Plan after months of research and years of debate within the Party on how best to address the threat of climate change. We sincerely believe that the most effective way to reduce emissions is to put a price on carbon pollution. Some others may prefer to call it a levy, fee or tax, but personally I don’t care what we call it, as long as it helps address the urgent need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In order for Islanders to understand why I am so committed to this plan, I think it’s important to describe how the Green Party went about crafting it.
The first thing we did was reach out to Islanders and ask them what issues matter most to them. Earlier this year we held a series of community meetings across the province, from which several common themes emerged. One of those was the need to act on climate change, as many participants expressed concerns about PEI’s extreme vulnerability to rising sea levels and increased storm activity.
We then developed a deep knowledge of the issue at hand – in this case of climate change and carbon pricing. As a Party committed to evidence-based decision making, we gathered a wide range of evidence from respected experts in the field. We also looked at what other jurisdictions are doing, especially other Canadian provinces. There are several provinces with carbon plans in place, and we assessed their relevance to PEI’s unique situation. Ultimately, our plan is quite different from any other provinces’, and for very good reason – the needs of our Island and its people are unique, and we needed a plan that reflected that distinctiveness.
Developing a made-for-PEI plan had to take into account the context within which our provincial policy will operate. For example , the federal government’s actions have a profound impact on what we can and should do. PEI is a signatory to the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change, which includes a promise to develop a carbon pricing plan. I believe that governments should keep their promises, and follow through on commitments. Complying with the rules of the Pan-Canadian Framework allows us to access more federal funds - $34 million more funds - and by developing our own made-for-PEI plan, we were able to include features such as protection for low and middle income Islanders and a small business tax cut.
All of these factors were taken into account as we worked towards our finished plan. After countless revisions, more consultation with experts and Party membership (some who disagreed vigorously with the final product), exhaustive statistical analysis, and costing the final version, we were ready to present it to Islanders.
That’s a lot of work, and I am extremely proud of the finished article. Having said that, this is a plan, not policy, and we shall continue to re-evaluate it as new information comes in and circumstances change.
We freely offer this plan to Islanders (and the Minister of Environment) as a potential solution to government’s inaction on meeting its commitments under the Pan-Canadian Framework. If the Liberals don’t come up with a plan that is compliant, the federal government will impose a plan on Islanders in less than four months, and we will risk losing the $34 million in clean energy funding.
I’m not overly concerned about who gets credit for the plan, what’s most important to me is good policy, based on the best evidence available, and designed to accomplish clear goals that will improve the lives of Islanders.