N.B. Premier Higgs says he is optimistic feds will help offset Atlantic gas prices – New Brunswick | Globalnews.ca

New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs has long complained of the impact of federal climate policies on the price of fuel in the province, but Ottawa has signalled it may be willing to address those concerns.

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Following a meeting of the four Atlantic premiers and federal ministers in Moncton on Tuesday, Higgs took the opportunity to voice his concerns, while sitting directly next to federal intergovernmental affairs minister Dominic Leblanc.

“We spoke about energy and climate change targets being set by the federal government. These policies are causing inflation, rising interest rates and the increase in costs for everything from fuel to groceries,” Higgs said.

The price of fuel in the province has jumped by about seven cents since the beginning of the month, when the tax on carbon increased by over two cents per litre and new federal clean fuel standards took effect. New Brunswick created a mechanism for the Energy and Utilities Review Board (EURB) to pass on the price of the clean fuel standards from suppliers to consumers resulting in a further increase in prices.

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But Higgs said the region faces a greater impact from climate policies than other areas of the country.

“I think there’s been a recognition for some time now that Atlantic Canada is disproportionately impacted by the increase in costs and that has to relate to the impact it has based on the size of our economy, the fact that we’re rural in nature and that we don’t have the mass transit that other provinces have,” he said.

Yet Higgs said that there seems to be a growing willingness from the feds to recognize and address the impact of high fuel costs.

When reporters asked what could be on the table, Leblanc quickly gestured to current programs that transfer money to Canadians. New Brunswickers, for example, will receive a double payment of the carbon tax rebate in the fall and the federal government has earmarked a large portion of a program to help Canadians switch to non-fuel-based home heating specifically for the Atlantic region.

But the form additional measures to offset the price of fuel in Atlantic Canada may take isn’t clear.

“There are a number of measures that we have in place but we’re always interested in hearing ways that the national government can address affordability issues broadly in the region not only in terms of energy costs but in terms of other affordability issues as well,” Leblanc said.

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The federal government has also said that it plans to argue to the EURB that the impact of the clean fuel standards should be borne by producers and suppliers, not consumers.

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