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Sask. residents could see smaller carbon rebate cheques says premier, federal minister

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Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe expects residents could get less money back through the Canada Carbon Rebate following the province’s decision not to remit the federal carbon tax on natural gas used for home heating.

“We’ve mirrored a decision the federal government has made,” Moe told reporters Monday. “We would expect to be treated equally among this nation when it comes to whatever rebate may be coming.”

A federal carbon tax exemption on home heating oil means residents in Atlantic Canada, where the fuel is commonly used, will receive smaller rebate cheques.

The federal Department of Finance has said a family of four in Saskatchewan was scheduled to receive about $1,800 this year through the carbon rebate.

However, that figure could change following the province’s decision.

“That would be the fair approach,” Moe said.

The province claimed the decision to not collect the carbon tax on home heating bills will save the average Saskatchewan household $400 per year.

However, when speaking with CTV’s Power Play host Vassy Kapelos on Monday, Natural Resources and Energy Minister Jonathan Wilkinson said residents will feel the greatest impact.

“[The tax] which relates to home heating will not go back,” he said. “That will impact the overall size of the rebate. It will go down.”

Wilkinson’s comments come after he was quoted last week saying Saskatchewan residents would no longer receive the rebate following the province’s decision.

In a statement to CTV News, the federal Department of Finance said the carbon rebate program “has to remain revenue neutral for the federal government.”

“If less (or more) [tax] is collected than anticipated, there are mechanisms to adjust the rebates,” the statement went on to say.

“We think the carbon tax should be removed on everything for everyone,” Moe reiterated. “But we’re still paying it on a great deal of other things.”

Wilkinson believes Moe is setting a dangerous precedent.

“You can’t pick and choose which laws you will abide by and which you can’t,” he said. “If you do that, you will have anarchy.”

“The premier of a province cannot say to people he’s simply going to decide which laws he obeys and which ones he does not,” Wilkinson added.

While supportive of the decision to cut the carbon tax on home heating, the Saskatchewan NDP felt the Saskatchewan Party could have handled the issue differently.

“It appears they’d rather have the fight than actually get to the table, do the hard work and find a deal for the people of this province,” leader Carla Beck told reporters following question period.

Beck added the Saskatchewan Party should look for further affordability relief for residents.

“Why hasn’t the premier scrapped the fuel tax to give Saskatchewan people the relief they so need?” she asked during Monday’s session.

Moe responded by claiming Saskatchewan residents are paying less tax as opposed to 10-15 years ago.

“Particularly in the lower income tax brackets,” he added.

The federal Department of Finance did not elaborate on when the rebate adjustment mechanisms could be deployed, only that “[the federal government] wouldn’t have to wait until the next fuel charge year to adjust amounts.”

Wilkinson told CTV’s Power Play that the government’s next move will be dictated by Saskatchewan’s actions.

“At this stage, we are looking to see exactly what the government of Saskatchewan will do,” he explained. “I am hopeful that they will see the light, they will see reason and they will make a decision to actually rebate the money.”

However, if Saskatchewan does not comply, Wilkinson says the federal government will have to figure out what its options are.

“This is unheard of. It's historic in the history of Canada, and it is such, such appallingly bad judgment,” he said.

“I say that as somebody who used to work for many years for a very distinguished premier of Saskatchewan. I grew up in that province. My family lives in that province. People in Saskatchewan expect, and to be honest, should be demanding more thoughtful, responsible leadership.”

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