Rempel slams big oilpatch players for carbon tax support
Conservative MP Michelle Rempel is taking aim at some of the country’s biggest energy companies over their support for a carbon tax.
The Liberal government announced on Monday that it will require provinces to implement a minimum $10 a tonne price on carbon by 2018 — rising to $50 a tonne by 2022 — through either a carbon tax or a cap-and-trade system.
A number of major energy producers have backed the concept of a carbon tax — though not the specifics of the Liberal plan — as the best tool to reduce emissions.
Companies such as Cenovus, Suncor, CNRL and Shell Canada publicly supported Alberta NDP’s government when it unveiled its climate strategy, which includes a broad-based carbon tax that will be implemented in Jan. 1.
In the House of Commons this week, Rempel, the MP for Calgary-Nose Hill, said that “the few rich CEOs of Canada’s big energy firms probably support their tax because it may force junior firms out of the market, enabling them to make a play for assets.”
In an interview Wednesday, Rempel reiterated that large oilpatch players have already priced in a carbon tax into the cost of operations in their business model while smaller energy companies have less ability to do so.
“Is there an opportunity to scoop assets there? I don’t know, but you have to question motivation,” said Rempel, who denied that she was accusing the big energy companies of predatory practices.
Gary Leach, president of the Explorers and Producers Association of Canada, the industry group representing small and mid-size energy producers, said many of his members are deeply concerned about the impact of the carbon tax.
But he doesn’t agree with Rempel’s characterization that big players are looking for a competitive advantage through the carbon price.
“I don’t see any merit in that assertion. There are so many other factors in play at any given time in the market,” said Leach.
“Junior and mid-size are typically working plays and opportunities the bigger companies aren’t necessarily interested in. It typically works the other way. When big companies want to exit … they’re looking at some of those junior and mid-size companies to be buyers of their assets.”
Energy producers Cenovus, Suncor, Shell, Total and Statoil, as well as pipeline companies TransCanada Corp. and Enbridge, belong to the international Carbon Pricing Leadership Coalition, an organization that supports putting a price on carbon as an incentive to reduce greenhouse gas emissions blamed for global climate change.
“We support a broad-based price on carbon as an important tool to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the fight against climate change,” Suncor said in a statement this week in response to the Liberal government’s announcement.
With files from Chris Varcoe