A request by Councillor Greg Hoffort at Monday night’s meeting of Estevan city council, to have council craft a letter that voices their opposition to a federal carbon tax, quickly turned into a rebuke of the federal government’s plan to phase out conventional coal power plants.
Hoffort began by praising the Estevan Chamber of Commerce and the provincial government for their stance on the carbon tax issue, and their support for the energy sector in southeast Saskatchewan.
“I think it’s time we did state our position on this matter,” said Hoffort. “There has not been an impact assessment undertaken by the federal government in regards to this. There has not been a demonstration that this is actually going to provide a benefit.”
Hoffort noted a carbon tax in B.C. has not created any benefits.
As part of Hoffort’s motion, council will also write to interim Saskatchewan New Democratic Party leader Trent Wotherspoon, expressing the city’s disappointment with that party’s stance on the carbon tax issue, and asking his party to change their stance.
And they will write to Regina-Wascana Member of Parliament Ralph Goodale, who is the lone Liberal MP from Saskatchewan. Hoffort is upset that Goodale has publicly supported the carbon tax, and Hoffort wants council to meet with him.
Ironically, Goodale was the MP for the Assiniboia constituency (now part of Souris-Moose Mountain) in the 1970s.
The letter will also criticize the federal government for Monday’s announcement by Catherine McKenna, the minister for the environment and climate change, that traditional coal-fired generating stations would be phased out by 2030.
“We are appalled that the federal government would make this announcement without any dialogue with our province, without any dialogue with the mine owners, without any dialogue with the employees, and without any dialogue with SPC (SaskPower Corporation),” said Mayor Roy Ludwig.
Coal-fired electrical generation is the “lifeblood” of communities like Estevan and Coronach, Ludwig said, as it employs over 1,000 people, and results in significant indirect employment.
“This is actually an insult to not even have any dialogue, and come out with this statement,” said Ludwig.
The phase out would take effect in a little more than 13 years, which Ludwig said isn’t enough time for provinces and communities to prepare.
He admitted McKenna’s announcement caught him off guard.
“That’s what’s upsetting is … there was no communication with the province,” said Ludwig.
Ludwig works for the Westmoreland Coal Company and has enjoyed a career in mining that spans 40 years. He said his co-workers at the mines were also surprised and disappointed.
In her announcement, McKenna stated provinces that still employ coal-fired generation can switch to carbon capture and storage (CCS) capabilities, allowing them to keep coal as part of their generating sources.
It means that coal-fired generation could remain an option for power stations like Shand and Boundary Dam near Estevan. Boundary Dam is already home to world-leading CCS technology at its Unit 3.