The federal government will spend $60 million in revenue from its carbon pricing system to help elementary and secondary schools in Ontario, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and New Brunswick become more energy efficient.
Speaking outside a school in Ottawa Tuesday, Environment Minister Catherine McKenna framed the funding as a response to “provinces that have stepped back and made it free to pollute.”
Those four provinces are fighting the carbon pricing system in court. All had a federal carbon tax of $20 per tonne forced on them in April because they lacked their own carbon-pricing system that met federal standards. Alberta, which scrapped its carbon tax weeks ago, will have the price imposed on it in January.
“I know that young people care about taking action on climate change,” McKenna said. “We’ve seen them marching in the streets demanding action and wanting to be part of the solution.”
Watch: McKenna says Liberals won’t raise carbon price after 2022
Liberals have said 90 per cent of the proceeds from the carbon tax will go back to Canadians in those jurisdictions in the form of income tax rebates.
The remaining 10 per cent of revenue will fund green projects for schools, hospitals, small businesses, and other jurisdictions. The funding announced Tuesday is from that pool of money.
“How great would it be to see solar panels on every school, more energy-efficient windows, better lighting, better heating and cooling systems,” she said.
“This will improve the learning environment for students. It does right by the planet and it also helps schools save money, which they can re-invest in students.”
Ontario will receive $41 million, while $12 million will be dedicated to Saskatchewan, $5 million for Manitoba, and $2 million for New Brunswick. The minister said almost 6,000 schools would be eligible for the funding.
Since education is a matter of provincial jurisdiction, McKenna said she wrote to each of those provincial governments to say the funding is there for the taking and will not need to be matched by the provinces.
McKenna also used the opportunity to criticize Tory Leader Andrew Scheer’s just-released climate plan, which would scrap carbon pricing and instead ask big polluters to pay into a fund for green technology.
“Conservatives don’t take the science behind climate change very seriously,” McKenna said. “They don’t take very seriously the need to have an ambitious plan to tackle climate change and grow the economy.”
She also took some swipes at Ontario Premier Doug Ford, whose dismal approval numbers could complicate matters for federal Tories in the battleground province during this fall’s federal election.
“We’ve seen that when Premier Ford cut so many programs it created great uncertainty,” she said. “We need to come together to take climate action.”
Earlier this month, McKenna announced Ottawa would spend $15 million over four years to save a tree-planting program axed by Ford’s government. John Yakabuski, Ontario’s natural resources minister, told The Canadian Press at the time that it is “pretty obvious that the federal government wants to campaign against us in this federal election.”
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Liberals are no doubt hoping Tuesday’s announcement will be received more warmly than the $12 million in funding Liberals gave to Loblaw Co. in April to help the company upgrade to more energy-efficient fridges at 370 stores owned by the company.
Loblaw Co. has fought against minimum wage hikes and revealed in 2017 that it was part of a multi-year conspiracy to fix the price of bread, along with other food retailers in Canada.
Federal Conservatives and New Democrats blasted that funding as little more than a taxpayer “handout” to a profitable company. The controversy spurred a hashtag —#LoblawsGiveItBack — calling on the company to reject the funding.
With files from Dan Tencer, The Canadian Press