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$60M from federal carbon tax to go to green projects in schools


A portion of the proceeds of the federal carbon tax will go to fund green projects at schools in four provinces, but the fate of the program depends on the co-operation of those provinces' conservative premiers.

Environment Minister Catherine McKenna announced Tuesday $60 million of the revenue from the federal price on carbon will be spent on elementary and secondary schools in New Brunswick, Ontario, Manitoba and Saskatchewan.

Those four provinces are subject to the national carbon price because they do not have their own carbon-pricing systems that meet federal standards.

The Liberals previously promised 90 per cent of the revenue from the carbon tax is going back to individuals through rebates on their income taxes.

The money announced Tuesday is part of the remaining 10 per cent, which is to go to schools, hospitals, small businesses and other institutions — which can't pass on their own carbon-tax expenses through higher prices — to help develop green projects.

"This will improve the learning environment for students, it does right by the planet, and it also helps schools save money that they can reinvest in students," said McKenna, outside a school in her Ottawa Centre riding.

McKenna said replacing old windows and installing solar panels are possible projects for the roughly 6,000 schools that are eligible for a cut of the $60 million, $41 million of which will go to Ontario. Schools in Saskatchewan are set to receive $12 million, Manitoba schools $5 million, and New Brunswick schools $2 million.

But whether the money will be spent as promised depends on the goodwill of conservative premiers in the four provinces affected. Education spending is part of provincial jurisdiction.

McKenna said she had sent a letter to those provincial governments informing them of the decision, and emphasized that the federal government doesn't expect matching funds from the provinces. Federal infrastructure programs usually require provinces to put up a share of projects' costs.

"What we need is an agreement that the provinces will work with the school boards so that we can flow this money," McKenna said.

"We're hopeful that provinces will recognize this is a good thing."

The environment minister noted the program resembled one cut by the Progressive Conservative government in Ontario when Premier Doug Ford scrapped its cap-and-trade policy.

Other conservative governments have challenged the constitutionality of the federal carbon price, and Saskatchewan's case is set to be heard at the Supreme Court late this year. Last week, the government of Alberta also launched a court challenge.

Christian Paas-Lang, The Canadian Press