BY KIM SCHREINER
On May 24th our government announced the implementation of our Climate Leadership Plan. As a resident of Red Deer and as a long-time health care worker, I am excited about the direction that this plan sets for our province.
As anybody who lives and works in Red Deer knows, we have a beautiful City, filled with running and walking trails and many opportunities to get outside and get active. Unfortunately, we also have the distinction of having the worst ambient air quality of any community in Alberta. Since 2009 industrial activity and vehicle emissions have pushed the levels of ozone and fine particulate matter above national standards.
Studies such as ‘A Costly Diagnosis: Subsidizing coal power with Albertans’ health’, released in 2013, establish the connection between air borne pollutants and health problems. Physicians have long called for a reduction in our coal-fired electricity generation as a major source of pollutants.
It is not something we can ignore. As a government, we are committed to phasing out coal-fired electricity generation and of moving our whole economy and environment into a cleaner and more sustainable model. The Climate Leadership Plan does this, and it does it in a way that benefits everyone. The main tool we’re using to move us forward is the carbon levy, a price on pollution.
We know that opposition parties call the carbon levy bad for the economy and a burden on families. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. The truth is that the carbon levy will benefit the economy and every family in Alberta. Here’s how:
• The levy is based on a user-pay system. The more you pollute, the more you pay. The less you pollute, the less you pay.
• The levy is attached to the price of carbon-based goods, so no one will pay directly out of pocket.
• Six out of 10 Alberta families will receive a full or partial rebate of the carbon levy. This rebate will be issued before the carbon levy is implemented, so families will receive cash in hand to help offset the costs before the costs come into effect.
• Remaining revenue will be injected directly back into the economy, creating jobs, spurring investment in new technologies, and helping everyone from families to businesses to charities lessen their carbon and pollution footprint, saving them money in the long run and decreasing the amount of pollution in the air that affects everyone.
Up until this plan was announced, Alberta was the only province in Canada without a provincial strategy to improve the energy efficiency of our homes, workplaces and public buildings. That is not leadership. This plan will create a new, lean agency called Energy Efficiency Alberta with a specific goal of helping everyone, including community groups, families, businesses and municipalities reduce their energy costs and their emissions.
I’m proud of the City of Red Deer for the work that it is already undertaking to reduce its emissions. It is expanding public transit options and sourcing 30% of its energy from environmentally friendly providers. I’m also proud of the work being done by local businesses and individuals to move forward and decrease the amount of pollution and carbon they release. Our government is committed to standing side-by-side with the forward-thinking people and businesses of Alberta as we move ahead to build a greener, healthier province and a more diversified sustainable economy.
We know that the world is changing. Climate change and carbon emissions are now on the agenda of international discussions that include every major economy in the world. We want a robust and competitive energy industry in Alberta that is not hampered from reaching more customers and markets because of a poor provincial environmental record.
We are working with industry, environmentalists and Indigenous communities. Together, we will make Alberta a great place to live, economically and environmentally, for generations to come.
Kim Schreiner is the MLA for Red Deer north.