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Thursday, 19 January 2017 08:00

MLA holds town hall on carbon tax using Facebook live

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Cypress Hills-Medicine Hat MLA Drew Barnes did his first Facebook live town hall Jan. 12 on the topic of the Alberta Carbon Tax which came into effect Jan. 1. The event went well with almost 300 views in just a half-hour and 86 comments. Cypress Hills-Medicine Hat MLA Drew Barnes did his first Facebook live town hall Jan. 12 on the topic of the Alberta Carbon Tax which came into effect Jan. 1. The event went well with almost 300 views in just a half-hour and 86 comments. Photo by Rose Sanchez

A broad reach and engaged viewers means Cypress Hills-Medicine Hat MLA Drew Barnes is calling his first Facebook live town hall a success, but some of that could have to do with the topic.


On Jan. 12, Barnes, who is also the energy critic for his party, spent a half hour in his office, talking through Facebook live about Alberta’s new carbon tax which came into effect Jan. 1 and answering viewers’ questions.
Barnes said his office has received a number of concerns from the public about the tax and that’s because there is a lot of information the NDP government didn’t get out prior to it taking effect.
“There’s a lot of uncertainty and trepidation around the economy, and the changes with the minimum wage,” said Barnes.
While he is not surprised with the outpouring of concern from the public, he said he is surprised the government didn’t listen to the opposition in the Legislature last year. Some help has been offered for agriculture and greenhouse operations, but school boards and municipalities are facing hefty increases due to the carbon tax.
“Wildrose and Albertans are concerned about the environment. We want to continue to be leaders, but we don’t believe the carbon tax is the right mechanism and we’re concerned about the timing,” explained Barnes.
During his Facebook live session, Barnes said the carbon tax challenges Albertans at the wrong time, and added it can be compared to a three per cent provincial sales tax. He pointed out other countries, such as Australia, have repealed a carbon tax because officials there found it didn’t work to reduce emissions.
“Alberta’s environmental standards are already very high and very strong,” he added.
Barnes pointed out that heating a house in the winter months isn’t an option for people, nor is travelling long distances.
“This is an extra tax — a new tax — at exactly the wrong time.”
One of the questions asked of Barnes was what can be done to counter the carbon tax. Barnes said a legal petition needs to be vetted by the Alberta Legislature and it can be submitted through his office.
“It can be presented to government to let them know exactly how many Albertans are concerned about this tax,” added Barnes. “Let’s make sure the entire Alberta government and the Premier knows what we’re feeling on this tax.”
He said there are a lot of unintended consequences of the carbon tax that will have a real effect on the economy including that Albertans will be forced to spend less. Barnes also called the carbon tax “Alberta’s biggest tax grab in history.”
The local MLA was asked what the Wildrose will do when they form government in the next election. Barnes said his party will repeal the carbon tax, work with the province’s strong oil and gas industries and continue to be environmental leaders in the world.
Barnes was asked what he himself is doing to combat climate change. He said he tries to ensure his home and business are energy efficient and that educating others is part of the solution.
“Also strong economies have strong environmental rules and regulations that take care of the environment.”
Barnes finished the session by saying he would continue to stand up for Alberta and smaller government and listen to the public about their concerns.
“In my four and a half years as MLA for Cypress Hills-Medicine Hat, the carbon tax has generated the most concern,” he added.
At only a half hour, some people were wanting more time with Barnes. In the 30-minute session, Facebook pegged the reach at 728 people with 290 views, six shares and there were 86 comments.
Barnes and his staff will plan another Facebook live session in the coming months, likely increasing it to an hour to better interact with those taking part.

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Rose Sanchez

Assistant Managing Editor