View From the Legislature

Exploring Energy Options

  • Kelvin Goertzen, Author
  • Member of the Legislative Assembly, Steinbach

Over the past several years I have had the honour of serving as the co-chair of the Midwest U.S.-Canada Relations Committee as part of the Midwest Legislators Conference. The committee has representatives on it from four Canadian provinces as well as 11 midwestern states. Last week, I was asked to join several U.S. state representatives from this committee in Edmonton, Alberta to learn about and discuss the various initiatives that provinces are undertaking in developing new forms of energy and efforts to reduce green house gas emissions.

This was a particularly timely meeting as it occurred just days before the federal Liberal government was set to increase the carbon tax again on April 1st. In the lead up to the carbon tax increase, the vast majority of provincial premiers asked Prime Minister Trudeau to stop the increase as Canadians are already struggling with high inflation and interest rates. In response, Mr. Trudeau indicated that provinces were free to come up with their own plans to replace the carbon tax if they would like.

While that seemed like a serious offer, it doesn’t seem to be one the federal Liberal government is following through on. Increasingly, it appears that the only effort the Liberal government is willing to entertain to combat emissions is a tax on carbon. During my visit to Alberta last week, I was able to visit a number of locations that are quickly moving to hydrogen for energy production. In fact, the Alberta hydrogen strategy anticipates having thousands of hydrogen powered vehicles on the road in that province. At the Edmonton airport, which is uniquely involved in the hydrogen strategy, I was given the opportunity to drive a hydrogen powered car.

In addition, meetings with the Alberta Minister of Energy made it clear that Alberta is also moving ahead aggressively on a carbon capture program including incentives. These initiatives are reinforced by research and development being done at the University of Alberta faculty of engineering which has many of the nations brightest minds working on clean energy solutions.

During my meetings with energy officials, I also had the opportunity to promote Manitoba’s clean electric power. Already Manitoba is a key exporter of hydro but there are greater opportunities that exist. As well, the opportunity to use Churchill as a key port for exports was discussed.

What was clear from my visit and discussions with officials from Canada and the United States is that there is a lot of work that has been done and much more happening when it comes to technology and alternatives to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. And yet, while the Liberal government has indicated that they are open to other suggestions beyond the carbon tax, they don’t seem to be fully engaging with the provinces to actually explore them. Instead, they seem determined while they remain in office to increasing the carbon tax and not really considering the efforts of individual provinces beyond that.

Whether it is Manitoba’s hydroelectric power, Alberta’s investment into hydrogen power, efforts to capture and store or repurpose carbon, or the many other initiatives that provinces and states are undertaking, more than just the carbon tax exists as a tool to reduce emissions. Given the current unpopularity of both the carbon tax and the federal government itself, Mr. Trudeau should undertake a genuine effort to listen to the provinces and recognize the work they are doing rather than imposing a one size fits all solution.