REGINA, Sask. — Saskatchewan may have a new premier, but that doesn’t mean the province is taking a new position on the implementation of a carbon tax.
Like Premier Scott Moe, the Saskatchewan Trucking Association (STA) is not waffling on the issue, maintaining that there are more effective ways to reduce greenhouse gases (GHG) than to implement a tax.
“As an industry, we know there are technologies currently available that would reduce the GHG emissions from trucks,” said STA executive director Susan Ewart.
“The issue lies in the red tape standing in the way of the industry utilizing them.”
Similar to Moe and former premier Brad Wall – who is quoted as saying, “There are three approaches we can take to fighting climate change – adaptation, innovation, and taxation. Of the three, a carbon tax will do the most harm to the economy while having the least positive impact on reducing emissions.” – the STA believes a carbon tax does little to reduce GHG emissions, and instead provides a revenue stream to the government.
In 2017 the STA created a white paper on carbon tax in Saskatchewan. In the paper, the STA underscored several ways it sees a carbon tax impacting the trucking industry – massive administrative burdens, making budgeting nearly impossible, raising the price of carbon at an alarming rate and creating a competitive advantage to U.S. carriers operating in Canada, and creating inequities between modes of freight transport.
The goal of lowering emissions is not where the STA and federal government differ, but rather how to reach that goal.
“Everyone wants to see reduction in pollution, both from an environmental and business standpoint,” said Ewart. “For trucking, reduced emissions can often mean less fuel consumption, a goal the industry has chased long before carbon taxes were an issue.”
Instead, the STA would like to see new truck technologies available to carries more quickly, and see a reduction in red tape, which it says has made the approval process slow.
Technologies such as side skirts, boat tails, fairings, idle reduction devices, low-roll resistance tires, speed limiters, auxiliary power units, alternative fuels, and wide-base single tires are examples of how the trucking industry has strived to reduce fuel consumption, and in turn GHS emissions.
But as the STA points out, they have taken some time to be approved, and with the federal government attempting to impose a carbon tax on provinces absent a policy, it is somewhat of a catch-22.
“Our position remains that a federally-forced tax will not serve the transportation sector, a reduction in red tape and responsibly created regulations will,” said Ewart. “The pace of technology greatly outweighs the pace of regulatory change on said technologies.
“As new equipment becomes available to help reduce miles per gallon and increase aerodynamics on tractors and trailers, companies need to be able to use them – and they want to use them. The problem comes when the equipment is available and it takes years to get it into regulation.”
In addition to reducing red tape and speeding up the approval process for environmentally friendly technologies, the STA suggests the provincial government plan for a carbon pricing system to prepare companies in the event a tax is imposed in Saskatchewan, and consider the creation of a green fund for rebates to carriers that use fuel-reducing technologies.
The association said incentivizing the use of power units, side skirts, and wide-base single tires would result in more carriers using the technologies, particularly smaller companies with lower capital.
“Fleets that invest in GHG reduction should qualify for reductions elsewhere, whether it’s cash-back incentives or reduced taxes in other areas,” said Ewart. “This rewards good behavior and creates an advantage for companies willing to invest in the technology.”
Ewart said she does not want to see a carbon tax funneled into a general revenue fund with no benefit to the companies paying into it.
“The general idea of a carbon tax is to reduce consumption and encourage responsible behavior,” she said. “Investing those tax revenues back into the industry and the infrastructure we need to operate is a great incentive.”
Stealing a line from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s father, Pierre Trudeau, Premier Moe said, “Just watch me” in response to how far he will go to stop a carbon tax being imposed on Saskatchewanians.
And STA members appear to be on the same page.
“Our members have made it very clear that they do not want a carbon tax in Saskatchewan and would like to see other avenues explored to address the global GHG issue,” said Ewart, cautioning that an increase of fuel costs would result in higher prices on consumers.
“This is a very innovative and business-minded province. We need to stand up for our right to find methods of protecting the environment in a way that works best for us.”