By Nikki Jamieson
During the afternoon session of the Alberta Legislator on Dec. 7, Little Bow MLA Dave Schneider addressed the minister of agriculture, Oneil Carlier, asking how the carbon tax would impact producers in his riding during question period.
“In 24 days the carbon tax starts. In my riding there are all kinds of agribusinesses that use electricity or natural gas for secondary processing,” said Schneider. “A well-known greenhouse in my riding is estimating that the carbon tax will cost them $1.5 million in ’17 and $2 million in ’18. Another agribusiness owner told me that his expenses for natural gas will increase $700,000 to $800,000 next year. To the minister: has your government considered what the economic impact of this tax will be on agrifood and agribusiness in this province?”
In response, Carlier said that they had met with producers and processors, and as a result of those meeting, had put in an exclusion on marked fuel.
“We’ve been hearing them. We heard them to the point where we have had the opportunity to have an exclusion on marked fuel,” said Carlier. “We’ve also listened to the member who brought up greenhouses in particular. I want to have an energy efficiency program. The Alberta Greenhouse Growers Association wishes to extend thanks on behalf of the sector to the government of Alberta for expansion of existing on-farm energy programs. The greenhouse operators, like all other farmers and producers in this province, know what we’re doing.”
Schneider then made the point that the carbon tax would raise production costs in agribusiness, saying that a lot of companies are “price takers”, and could not pass the cost onto their customers. What he’s being told by these businesses isn’t the same as what he’s been hearing in the house, he argued, and asked for further details on the consultations and what the government has been told about the carbon levy.
Carlier acknowledged that farmers are stewards of the land, and that they were looking to reduce emissions and see economic benefits to it as well, as the province moves towards becoming carbon-neutral.
“Given that this government claims to be fostering a diversified economy and given that I’m hearing the news of greenhouses shutting down south of Calgary and given that one greenhouse owner pointed out to me that the NDP say that they want locally grown food but in reality are making it very hard to operate in Alberta, to the minister,” said Schneider. “My constituents are watching right now. Will you stand and tell us what this government is doing to ensure that companies in agrifood and agribusiness can operate successfully in Alberta and compete with their counterparts in other jurisdictions?”
Carlier reiterated that farms were excluded under the carbon levy, quoted some groups who were happy about the efficiency grants, namely Alberta Pork, “The efficiency programs in Alberta have been very valuable to pork producers”; the Alberta Chicken Producers, “We appreciate this increased investment and shift in the government’s cost-shared portion of these programs”; and the Irrigation Council, “by extending the cap under irrigation programs, we are able to do more, make our operations more efficient”.