Why a Liberal Premier Wants to Pause a Carbon Tax Increase

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When Canadians debate the place of the country’s oil industry in a carbon-constrained future, the conversation usually focuses on Alberta and, to a lesser extent, Saskatchewan. Often overlooked is Newfoundland and Labrador, where offshore drilling accounts for 5 percent of all of Canada’s oil production and just under a quarter of its light oil.

Andrew Furey, the premier of Newfoundland and Labrador, has called for a carbon tax pause.Credit…Ian Willms for The New York Times

Oil also contributes indirectly to the province’s economy. While statistics are fuzzy, a large percentage of the fly-in, fly-out workers in Alberta’s oil sands are Newfoundlanders.

I met this week with Andrew Furey, the premier of Newfoundland and Labrador, in his office at the legislature that has a commanding view of St. John’s. Mr. Furey, who became premier in 2020, has a number of distinctions. He is the only Liberal premier in the country at the moment, he is an orthopedic surgeon who still practices the minimum number of days necessary to maintain his medical license, and he is a founder of a group that provides medical aid to Haiti.

Our conversation has been edited for space and clarity.

Citing recent inflation, you unsuccessfully asked Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to suspend the increase of the national carbon tax that ultimately went into effect at the beginning of the month. Mr. Trudeau has challenged you and other premiers to come up with a better idea. Do you share the view of your conservative counterparts that the tax should be eliminated?

No, I said “pause.” Presumably this consumer carbon tax is built to cause people to change behaviors. But we don’t have the options to change behavior here in Newfoundland and Labrador. The infrastructure and availability of electric vehicles just doesn’t exist in Newfoundland and Labrador right now, there are no subways in St. Anthony or Gander.

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