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Premier says New Brunswick to have carbon pricing that respects economy

Lieutenant Governor of New Brunswick Jocelyne Roy-Vienneau delivers the throne speech, Tuesday Oct. 24, 2017 in Fredericton. THE CANADIAN PRESS/James West

Lieutenant Governor of New Brunswick Jocelyne Roy-Vienneau delivers the throne speech, Tuesday Oct. 24, 2017 in Fredericton. THE CANADIAN PRESS/James West

FREDERICTON — New Brunswick's premier says his government will introduce a carbon pricing model that helps combat climate change while respecting his province's economic realities.

"We will establish a carbon price that minimizes the impact on consumers, calls on large industry to reduce emissions or pay its fair share, and establishes a climate fund with dedicated investments to combat the effects of climate change," Brian Gallant said Tuesday.

He made the comments as Lt.-Gov. Jocelyne Roy-Vienneau delivered his government's throne speech, opening a new session of the provincial legislature.

Despite the commitment to move forward on carbon pricing during the current session, the government still hasn't chosen a model to use.

"We're going to ensure we take the time necessary and we make the decision based on all of the evidence before us and all of the other different models and approaches that have been used to come up with a system that will work here in New Brunswick to combat climate change, all the while making sure economic growth is at the forefront of our efforts," Gallant told reporters.

Green Leader David Coon said the government should be having a public discussion on climate change and carbon pricing, rather than just unveiling a chosen model.

"We should have had a public debate about it by now because there are so many ways to do carbon pricing wrong that hurts people and business and other ways to do it right. They're not willing to engage in that public discussion. That's frustrating and dangerous," he said.

Coon said it should be easy to regulate carbon emissions because there are only two large industries that emit carbon in any amount — power plants owned by NB Power, and an Irving Oil refinery.

Meanwhile Progressive Conservative Leader Blaine Higgs said carbon pricing can be avoided. Higgs said he would impose emission limits as a means of combating climate change, and any violators would face hefty fines.

"I would argue that if I'm meeting the standards of environmental targets then there isn't any grounds for the federal government just to say tax the people more anyway," he said.

In neighbouring Nova Scotia, the provincial government introduced legislation last month.

Nova Scotia officials said the goal would be to set declining greenhouse gas caps each year until 2022 that would correspond to projected emissions levels resulting from the federal government setting a carbon price that will rise to $50 a tonne by 2022.

That price will be set at $10 a tonne beginning next year.

On Monday, the British Columbia government announced plans to introduce climate legislation next spring that aims to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 40 per cent below 2007 levels over the next 13 years.

B.C. is set to increase its carbon tax by $5 per tonne next April, raising the tax to $35 per tonne.

Earlier this month, Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister said it appears the federal government has the right to force a carbon tax on the provinces, but there may be some wiggle room when it comes to the exact amount, especially if emission reduction targets are being met.  

Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall has said he will fight the tax proposal, possibly through a lawsuit.

New Brunswick's throne speech Tuesday offered an outline of what else to expect from the Liberal government during the final year of their mandate.

In the speech, Vienneau said the government plans to help grow the economy by further reducing the small business tax rate and launching a new strategy aimed at maintaining and growing New Brunswick's population.

The speech also said the government plans to spend more on educational infrastructure, introduce legislation to deal with the legalization of recreational marijuana, and help seniors stay in their own homes longer.

The speech makes no mention of a recent property assessment scandal that saw some assessments double, but Gallant said he's waiting for the auditor general to complete her review of the system before making any changes.

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