Time to rollback NDP’s onerous energy regulations

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Appeared in the Calgary Sun, July 25, 2018
Time to rollback NDP’s onerous energy regulations

Recently in Ontario, Premier Doug Ford summarily scrapped Ontario’s cap-and-trade program, which would have burdened Ontario companies with costly carbon accounting and sent millions of Ontario’s dollars to California to buy carbon credits. Since 2017, Ontarians paid nearly $2 billion annually as the cost of cap-and-trade was passed onto consumers. Moreover, Ontario will cancel some 758 contracts for renewable power, saving the province another $790 million while helping reduce power prices for Ontarians.

Besides partying at Stampede and doing aerial acrobatics, what has Premier Rachel Notley done to increase investment attractiveness in Alberta?

Let’s review. Since coming to office, she raised corporate income taxes to 12 per cent from 10 per cent—a hike of about 20 per cent. And discouraged wealthier folks, who might live and invest here, by killing Alberta’s highly attractive flat income tax rate. Due to this tax hike, which went from 10 per cent up to 15 per cent for high earners, Albertans who earn more than $300,000 per year saw their taxes rise 50 per cent.

The NDP government has also stacked a daunting pile of regulatory bricks onto the back of a prostrate industry when it was reeling from a massive drop in oil prices. While Canada’s energy sector was down, it was hit with Premier Notley’s “Climate Leadership Plan,” which expanded and increased Alberta’s carbon tax to $30/tonne of emissions, and will ostensibly follow the Trudeau government’s federal plan to raise the tax to $50/tonne by 2022, as her contingent condition of getting a pipeline built was satisfied by Ottawa’s purchase of the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain expansion project.

In addition to the tax hikes, the government put a hard cap on the emissions of greenhouse gases from the oilsands, limiting them to 100 megatonnes per year, a constraint which could start to bite in the mid-2020s, threatening the viability of long-term projects and costing the economy billions in lost production.

Alberta’s Climate Leadership Plan also includes a commitment to phase out coal-generated electricity by 2030, triple renewable energy to supply 30 per cent of generation by 2030, further reduce methane emissions from the oil and gas sector, and create a new agency to spend Alberta’s carbon tax revenues on energy-efficiency programs with a very poor record of success. These are the kind of policies that drove up energy prices in Ontario and drove investment and jobs out of the province.

Simply put, as Ontario steps back from cap-and-trade and wind and solar power, Alberta forges ahead with burdensome regulations, renewable energy subsidies and higher taxes. And all of this after the spectacular failure of Premier Notley’s “social license” dream that was never going to be granted by environmentalists. Instead, we now have a precedent that, if pipelines are to be built, the government must fund them or indemnify them with Alberta’s and Canada’s tax dollars.

If the premier is serious about rebuilding Alberta’s oil and gas sector, she should get off the Stampede zip-line and start removing the bricks she put on the back of Alberta’s energy economy, to make Alberta a profitable place to invest with a more predictable and affordable regulatory system.

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