Hundreds gathered near the Airdrie Co-op Nov. 5 as one of 12 locations across the province protesting the NDP’s carbon tax, set to start in 2017.
Airdrie protest co-ordinator Leah Hahn said she was pleased with the 415 signatures the community added to a petition calling for a referendum on the carbon tax.
In total, she said the Alberta-wide rallies collected an estimated 7,800 to 8,000 signatures for a Wildrose Party-backed petition. The petition requires 500,000 signatures before it can be brought to the legislature.
“We believe if enough Albertans exercise their voice that we will no longer be seen as the silent majority,” Hahn said.
Starting Jan. 1, a carbon tax will be applied to fuels at a rate of $20 per tonne in Alberta. Provincial officials say it will cost the average Albertan $191 in 2017; however, Albertans with low incomes will be provided with rebates up to $200.
Airdrie resident and rally participant Robyn Buchart said she was protesting to have her voice heard.
She said she hoped the Alberta-wide rallies would get the NDP to hear the concerns of Albertans that oppose the tax.
“Taxes don’t turn down the world’s thermostat,” Buchart said. “Any other times we have our voice out there, the NDP clearly hasn’t heard us.”
Angela Pitt, Airdrie Wildrose MLA, said politics in Alberta has never been “so interesting, so exciting (and) so depressing.”
The province is facing a challenging time that “just feels different,” she said, as though “every level of government is working against Albertans.”
“This (carbon) tax is literally taking away from hardworking Albertan families,” Pitt said. “This government is shameful.”
Blake Richard, Conservative MP for Banff-Airdrie, told protestors Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wants to introduce a federal carbon tax that he said would be “twice as bad.”
“It’s a very, very significant cost to each and every Canadian family,” Richards said. “Stand up, be vocal, be firm and in 2019 we’re going to take back this province, we’re going to take back this country and we’re going to take down this carbon tax.”
Alberta Environment and Parks Minister Shannon Phillips said with carbon pricing now the law, the absence of an Alberta plan would mean one would be imposed on the province by Ottawa.
In response to those who would like to see the carbon tax scrapped entirely, Phillips said there would always be voices that want Alberta to be stuck in the past.
“Climate change is real, action on climate change is real (and) a carbon constrained future is real,” Phillips said. “We need to make sure that we’ve got an Alberta solution to this problem.”
She said the NDP government is implementing the least intrusive method to price carbon while also making investments in the economy of tomorrow and creating jobs.
In response to the province-wide rallies, Phillips said it’s fair Albertans have questions about the impact of carbon pricing.
“I think it’s also fair because the opposition engages in fact-free politics that, of course, have become fashionable south of the border,” she said. “They’ve adopted some of those techniques here.”
– With files from Patricia Riley