Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I've been on both sides of the table, and at this end too, so it's wonderful to be back.
Mr. Chairman, I am leader of the United Conservative Party in Alberta. We just had our founding annual general meeting, which wrapped up yesterday. Since 98% of our members voted in favour of a policy to repeal the carbon tax imposed by the incumbent NDP government in Alberta, I am here in opposition to part 5 of Bill C-74 and its proposed federal carbon tax.
The NDP government in Alberta imposed its carbon tax five months after the last election. Hilariously, they forgot to mention their carbon tax in that election. It was the largest hidden agenda in our province's political history, and the largest tax increase in our history. They raised it by 50% on January 1 of this year. They are now committed to raising it by a further 67%, and they're blaming Bill C-74, the federal carbon tax.
I can report that there have been over a dozen public opinion polls taken on the carbon tax in Alberta in the past two years, showing consistently that two-thirds of Albertans oppose this tax. They oppose it not because they are indifferent to the environmental questions or the challenges of climate change and greenhouse gas emissions, but because they understand, with their good common sense, that punishing consumers for living normal lives in a cold northern climate and an advanced economy is not a responsible environmental policy. They understand that making it more expensive for seniors to heat their homes when it's 30 below outside, as it was just a couple of weeks ago in Alberta, or making people pay more in order to drive to work, is punishing people for simply living their lives and doesn't make sense.
The theorists who support carbon tax will generally admit that it is a so-called Pigouvian tax, by which they mean there should be a taxation on negative behaviours, like sin taxes on booze and cigarettes.
Most Albertans don't think that heating their homes and driving to work and running their small businesses are something that should be punished.
I recently visited the Sundre Seniors Centre. It's a wonderful organization that keeps seniors active in their community. They do that for only $18,000 a year. It's a completely volunteer organization. They're now spending 7% of their annual budget on a carbon tax they can't afford, which is about to go up by another 67%. They don't get a rebate and they don't get any prospective offsetting tax cut, so they're looking at possibly having to close down their seniors centre.
There are real human impacts that the advocates don't talk about. That is why I am pleased to report to you that if Albertans elect a United Conservative government in next year's provincial election, the first bill that we will introduce in the legislature will be the carbon tax repeal act. We will completely repeal the NDP carbon tax.
If the federal government then seeks to impose the powers proposed in this bill on Albertans through a federal carbon tax, we will see the federal government in court. Our official opposition is making an application to the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal to seek intervenor status to join the Saskatchewan government's constitutional challenge of Bill C-74. Should we be in office, we will ensure that Alberta does everything it can to get Alberta before the courts on the same issue.
We believe this is an unconstitutional intrusion into the exclusive provincial power to tax for provincial purposes. It's also an unequal application of a federal power on different provinces, which are being treated differently.
I close by pointing out that the advocates of carbon taxes know that the $50 tax is just the beginning. Environment Canada has said that in order to hit the Paris targets, it has to go to $300 a tonne. This is the “frog in the pot” syndrome. All of the carbon tax advocates here are simply trying to get people used to paying more to heat their homes and to drive to work, so that they can continually raise this to give more revenue to politicians and more control to government. A future Conservative government in Alberta will do everything it can to fight that.