Premier Brian Pallister said Thursday the province will not accept an offer from Ottawa to provide roughly $5 million in federal carbon tax proceeds to fund green projects at Manitoba schools in the province because he sees the move as public relations exercise.
“We won’t be part of a hoax,” Pallister told reporters Thursday. “It would be like somebody coming into your house and taking a thousand dollars off the kitchen table and coming back in an hour and saying, ‘Here’s a fiver, you owe me.’ That’s really what this amounts to.”
Environment Minister Catherine McKenna announced late last month $60 million of the revenue from the federal price on carbon will go to elementary and secondary schools in New Brunswick, Ontario, Manitoba and Saskatchewan – four provinces where the national carbon price has taken effect.
Ninety per cent of the revenue will go back to individuals through rebates. The remaining 10 per cent is earmarked for schools, hospitals, small businesses and other institutions.
McKenna is urging Manitoba to reconsider.
Pallister said he doesn’t feel it’s the federal government’s place to get involved in an area of provincial authority.
“We’re already doing leading-green architecture on our schools and building a record number,” he said. “We really don’t think this is how a country should be run and so no, the feds want to have a PR campaign to promote the carbon tax and they’re on their own.”
McKenna said the announcement required the cooperation of the provinces eligible to receive the money.
Matching funds aren’t a requirement.
Winnipeg School Division board trustee and building and transportation chairperson Mark Wasyliw, who’s also a candidate for the NDP in the September election, called Pallister’s decision shocking. He said the money’s needed for upgrades to schools.
“We have a $261 million infrastructure deficit,” said Wasyliw, who noted 10 schools in the division are more than 100 years old and in desperate need of repair.
Seven Oaks School Division superintendent Brian O’Leary said in an email to CTV Winnipeg he hopes the money can still flow directly to schools.
Manitoba School Boards Association President Alan Campbell said he’s not aware of any formal discussions that have taken place with the federal government.
"I'm not aware of any precedent where the federal government has approached an individual school board with funding of this nature,” said Campbell.
An earlier version of this online story didn’t make mention Mark Wasyliw is a candidate for the NDP in the upcoming provincial election.