Rehn right in carbon tax impact claim

Leader article sparks some political sniping

Joe McWilliams
Lakeside Leader

An article that appeared in The Leader recently has provoked a provincial-level slugging match between the NDP and UCP parties. It has to do with a claim by UCP candidate Pat Rehn about the size of the carbon tax impact on a Slave Lake business.

In The Leader article (‘Let’s get on with it’ says UCP’s Rehn), Rehn said he’d heard from a local businessman that his company paid a whopping $500,000 in carbon taxes last year. He didn’t identify the business.

It came out soon enough that the company in question is Vanderwell Contractors, the large sawmill in the Mitsue Industrial Park. But first, the NDP pounced, accusing Rehn of exaggeration or simply not knowing what he was talking about. Or worse. Online comments on the Lakeside Leader and South Peace News websites were less diplomatic.

“The numbers quoted by this UCP candidate are nothing but pure lies,” said one.

It wouldn’t have been the first time a UCP candidate got the carbon tax numbers wrong. Michaela Glasgo famously put her foot in her mouth a few weeks ago, claiming the carbon tax cost her church $50,000 a year. It turned out to be $5,400.

So it was perhaps understandable that when Rehn’s claim in showed up online, UCP opponents would assume it was another case of wilful exaggeration. But it appears they were wrong and Rehn is right. Sawmill owner Ken Vanderwell confirmed it in stories that appeared in Edmonton’s two dailies last week. He did the same in an interview with The Leader on March 1.

“Absolutely it is” accurate, he said, adding that the impact is even greater when log-hauling is taken into consideration.

Vanderwell – he is also the president of the UCP LSL constituency association – said he’d calculated the carbon tax portion of the company’s annual fuel bill earlier this year, per a request from party leader Jason Kenney. Vanderwell says he presented Kenney with the numbers on the party leader’s visit to Slave Lake in January.

The NDP, meanwhile, points out that Vanderwell Contractors has benefitted from something called the bio-energy producer program to the tune of $1.8 million, since 2016. The program was established under the previous government and is now funded by the carbon tax.

The Journal story goes on to say Vanderwell’s company won’t be eligible in the future because integrated facilities such as sawmills don’t qualify to participate.

“It was a bit of a blow for our industry to be exempt from the new program,” Vanderwell told The Journal.

Rehn was on the offensive late last week, issuing a news release entitled: ‘Rehn releases egregious NDP carbon tax bill, slams government allegations.’

Stay tuned.

Ken Vanderwell

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