Rio Tinto Alcan’s aluminum smelter at Kitimat competes against producers in the Middle East and Russia that have no carbon tax. (Rio Tinto)

Rio Tinto Alcan’s aluminum smelter at Kitimat competes against producers in the Middle East and Russia that have no carbon tax. (Rio Tinto)

B.C. VOTES 2020

B.C. carbon tax highest in Canada, export industries unprotected

B.C. NDP, B.C. Liberals say they’re looking at exemptions

B.C. currently has the highest carbon tax in North America, and its unique lack of protection for export industries like mining and smelting is making it more likely that new copper and steelmaking coal mines are built elsewhere, the Mining Association of B.C. warns.

B.C. currently has 14 operating mines and two smelters, the Teck smelter at Trail and the recently expanded Rio Tinto Alcan aluminum smelter at Kitimat. In a new report, the mining industry notes that B.C.’s copper mines has lower emissions than Chile’s, its metallurgical coal is produced with half of the greenhouse gas emissions of Australia’s, and its aluminum is seven times less carbon-intensive than Russia’s.

That advantage is largely a result of abundant hydroelectric power, and the B.C. industry has been using it to reduce emissions further. But in a price-sensitive world market, mine investment is likely to go to countries that don’t have carbon tax. The industry calls it “carbon leakage,” where a higher carbon tax costs jobs locally and produces more emissions globally.

If B.C. doesn’t offer exemptions to export industries like metal mining and production, “you’ll reduce emissions in B.C. because you’ll close mines,” Michael Goehring, CEO of the Mining Association of B.C., said in an interview. He emphasized that the industry supports a price on carbon and isn’t asking for the B.C. carbon tax to be eliminated, just modified to match Ottawa’s protections for export industries. The Canadian government and all other provincial governments have such protections, and they’re not alone around the world.

“All of the Northern European nations do it,” Goehring said. “California does it.”

Asked about the issue at a campaign stop in Langley Oct. 21, B.C. NDP leader John Horgan said he’s working on the exemption issue, which was first raised in B.C. as its cement makers started losing business to U.S. and China imports.

“This is an issue that we’ve been working on inside of government, and if we’re re-elected on Saturday we’re going to be focusing on making sure that our traditional industries don’t suffer, in fact they benefit from our leadership on climate action,” Horgan told Black Press.

RELATED: NDP breaks on sales tax, carbon tax make LNG happen

RELATED: Delayed carbon tax, sales tax payments come due in B.C.

The B.C. Liberal election platform calls for industrial carbon tax exemptions, committing the party to “work to ensure that our carbon tax system for job-creating export industries does not increase global greenhouse gas emissions by driving investment to higher-emitting jurisdictions.”

B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson said the issue has to be dealt with “very soon” or B.C. will lose industry and jobs.

“This has been done in many jurisdictions around the world, and it’s high time it was dealt with in B.C.,” Wilkinson said in an interview Oct. 21. “We can’t see our exports losing competitiveness against jurisdictions where there is no such tax.”

Most people see the carbon tax when they fuel up vehicles, with the B.C. tax currently at 8.89 cents a litre on gasoline and 10.23 cents on diesel on top of federal and provincial fuel. It also applies to natural gas, currently at 7.6 cents per cubic metre, as well as propane and industrial fuels like coal. The NDP government increased the tax from $35 to $40 per tonne of emissions in April 2019, then delayed the next increase due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is due to rise to $45 in April 2021, moving to the federal target of $50 after that.

B.C. NDP platform highlights:

• Reduce B.C.’s total greenhouse gas emissions by 40 per cent in 2030

• Fast-track B.C.’s industrial electrification strategy for natural gas and other industries

B.C. Liberal platform highlights:

• Work with Ottawa to review scheduled carbon tax increases in light of the COVID-19 recession

• Encourage retrofitting of B.C. homes and businesses to reduce emissions

B.C. Green Party platform highlights:

• Commit B.C. to be carbon neutral by 2045, matching California

• Implement a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing for natural gas


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

BC politicsBC Votes 2020

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

B.C.’s parliament buildings in Victoria. (Photo: Tom Fletcher)
Surrey gets two cabinet ministers, a parliamentary secretary and government whip

Premier John Horgan’s NDP MLAs were sworn in on Tuesday and the cabinet was revealed Thursday afternoon

The Festival of Lights; Jingle Bell White Rock; and the Lighted Boat Parade all helped light up the White Rock waterfront on Saturday, Dec. 7. (Aaron Hinks photo)
White Rock Festival of Lights postponed

While event founder remains optimistic, the future of this year’s display is uncertain

Surrey city Councillor Brenda Locke. (File photo)
Brenda Locke trying to breathe life into Surrey’s defunct Public Safety Committee

Surrey councillor’s motion will be up for debate at a future council meeting

RCMP logo
Keen-eyed neighbour’s call to police helps stop South Surrey burglary in progress

Mounties were on the way before suspects triggered home alarm

Delta North MLA Ravi Kahlon was sworn in as minister of minister of jobs, economic recovery and innovation by B.C. Lt.-Gov. Janet Austin and Premier John Horgan during a virtual ceremony on Thursday, Nov. 26, 2020. (Province of BC/YouTube screen shot)
BREAKING: Kahlon named minister of jobs, economic recovery and innovation

Kahlon was sworn in by Lt.-Gov. Janet Austin during a virtual ceremony on Thursday, Nov. 26

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry update the COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature, Nov. 23, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C. sets another COVID-19 record with 887 new cases

Another 13 deaths, ties the highest three days ago

The baby boy born to Gillian and Dave McIntosh of Abbotsford was released from hospital on Wednesday (Nov. 25) while Gillian continues to fight for her life after being diagnosed with COVID-19.
Abbotsford mom with COVID-19 still fighting for life while newborn baby comes home

Son was delivered Nov. 10 while Gillian McIntosh was in an induced coma

B.C. Premier John Horgan, a Star Trek fan, can’t resist a Vulcan salute as he takes the oath of office for a second term in Victoria, Nov. 26, 2020. (B.C. government)
Horgan names 20-member cabinet with same pandemic team

New faces in education, finance, economic recovery

A new ‘soft reporting’ room is opening inside the Ann Davis Transition Society offices on Dec. 1, 2020 which is thought to be the first of its kind in B.C. (Ann Davis Transitional Society/ Facebook)
New ‘trauma-informed’ reporting room opening next week in Chilliwack

It’s a space for reporting domestic violence, sexual assault, or gender-based violence to police

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

The corporate headquarters of Pfizer Canada are seen in Montreal, Monday, Nov. 9, 2020. The chief medical adviser at Health Canada says Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine could be approved in Canada next month. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Health Canada expects first COVID-19 vaccine to be approved next month

Canada has a purchase deal to buy at least 20 million doses of Pfizer’s vaccine,

The online poster for Joel Goddard, who left his Willoughby home Nov. 10, 2020, has been updated by his family and friends who received word that he’s been found.
Langley man missing since Nov. 10 found alive and safe in Abbotsford

Family of the Willoughby area man had been searching for days. Police find him at Abbotsford Airport

A UBC study recommends an multi-government investment of $381 million to protect 102 species at risk in the Fraser River estuary. (Photo supplied by Yuri Choufour)
102 Fraser River estuary species at risk of extinction, researchers warn

UBC team develops $381-million strategy to combat crisis, boost economy

Most Read