Next federal NDP leader must make carbon pricing work for Saskatchewan

Please chip in to support more articles like this. Support for as little as $5 per month!

Left to right: Niki Ashton, Charlie Agnus, Guy Caron, Jagmeet Singh

The biggest federal issue in Saskatchewan is carbon pricing, in part because Premier Brad Wall has positioned himself as Canada's shrillest opponent of putting a price on emissions. In May, the federal Liberal government outlined its plan to impose a carbon tax on Saskatchewan if the provincial government does not do so by next year. When federal NDP leadership candidates debate in Saskatoon on Tuesday, they need to explain how they would help make carbon pricing work for Saskatchewan.

All of the NDP leadership candidates presumably support carbon pricing as a means of reducing emissions. Niki Ashton and Guy Caron will unveil their climate plans in the coming weeks. Charlie Angus has called for a "Federal Carbon Budget" without any numbers or any specific policies to implement it. Jagmeet Singh has released a more comprehensive climate plan, including a commitment to "ensure that carbon pricing is twinned with rebates to make it more affordable and fair for low and middle income Canadians."

The Alberta NDP government's carbon tax includes substantial income-tested rebates. Emulating this progressive approach would make carbon pricing more palatable in Saskatchewan and other provinces. Last month, I suggested that the federal government, which will collect GST from carbon pricing, provide a direct transfer to lower-income Canadians to help offset carbon costs.

However, none of the four remaining federal NDP leadership contenders has yet addressed the challenge of "carbon leakage." While carbon pricing provides a needed incentive for industry to reduce emissions, it can also provide a perverse incentive for industry to relocate to jurisdictions without carbon pricing. Pushing carbon-intensive production to countries with weaker environmental policies would increase global emissions and eliminate Canadian jobs.

This challenge looms particularly large for Saskatchewan. Canada's Ecofiscal Commission estimates that 79 per cent of Saskatchewan's emissions are from carbon-intensive, trade-exposed sectors -- by far the highest percentage of any province. For example, Regina's largest private-sector employers are a steel mill and an oil refinery. Both facilities are unionized and provide well-paid jobs. Both are carbon-intensive, but compete with even more carbon-intensive imports of steel and petroleum products from the U.S. and offshore.

I have proposed that the federal government extend its national carbon price to the carbon content of imports and rebate it on Canadian exports. Such border adjustments would ensure a level playing field and remove the incentive for industry to relocate to countries without carbon pricing. They would enable Canada to be more ambitious in using carbon pricing to reduce emissions and favour domestic production to the extent that it is less carbon-intensive than imports.

The federal government;s jurisdiction over international trade provides an opportunity to address the problem of carbon leakage and present a compelling response to Brad Wall's objection to carbon pricing. Saskatchewan New Democrats will be watching to see whether and how our federal leadership candidates meet this challenge.

Erin Weir is the NDP Member of Parliament for Regina–Lewvan

Like this article? Please chip in to keep stories like these coming.

Thank you for reading this story…

More people are reading than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable. has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.

So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.

And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.


We welcome your comments! embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:


  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.


  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.