A Slave Lake sawmill owner is sharing his carbon tax costs.
Supplied / AFPA
The owner of a Slave Lake sawmill says he paid nearly $500,000 in carbon taxes in 2018, one day after government staff questioned whether the number was legitimate.Ken Vanderwell, owner of Vanderwell Contractors (1971) Ltd., said his Slave Lake sawmill absorbed the expenses in 2018 which totalled $488,207.10, through diesel, gasoline and natural gas bills. The company makes more than $60 million in sales per year and is one of the largest independent sawmills in the province, he said.On Wednesday, cabinet communications staff took to social media to dispute the number after United Conservative Party candidate for Lesser Slave Lake Pat Rehn told a community newspaper about the bill. It’s the equivalent of the natural gas use by thousands of homes.Vanderwell, who is also president of the UCP Lesser Slave Lake constituency association, provided Postmedia with a summary of his carbon tax expenses compiled by his in-house financial controller.He said the $488,000 price tag for the manufacturing side of his business didn’t include additional carbon tax costs for log-hauling. His company sits on a four-acre lot including a sawmill, pellet mill, machine shops, and a power plant that’s under construction. Vanderwell employs about 190 workers full-time.“The carbon tax basically affects our bottom line,” he said. “We have no way to pass that cost onto consumers.“You can’t increase the price of lumber because Saskatchewan would be cheaper than we would, or B.C. would.”Alberta Climate Change Office spokesman Matt Dykstra said large industrial operators with significant fuel use have higher energy bills.“That’s why the climate leadership plan was created to support operators with cutting greenhouse gas emissions while creating jobs and diversifying their operations,” he said in a statement Thursday.Vanderwell Contractors has been a two-time recipient of provincial grants totalling more than $1.8 million through the bio-energy producer program since 2016, according to provincial data. The program aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions with grants dedicated to biofuel-producing facilities.It was established under the Progressive Conservatives, but is now funded out of the carbon tax. Vanderwell’s company won’t be eligible in the future because integrated facilities such as sawmills are exempt from participating.“It was a bit of a blow for our industry to be exempt from the new program,” Vanderwell said.The bioenergy producer program helped Vanderwell diversify its business by compressing excess sawdust from its sawmills and shavings from its planner mills into wood pellets, Dykstra said.“We recently granted an early extension to Vanderwell’s forest management agreement to continue harvesting lumber from public land for the next 20 years and we continue to work closely with them to find ways to manage their wood waste accumulation while helping them reduce their emissions.”In January, UCP candidate Michaela Glasgo came under fire after claiming that her local church faced a $50,000 carbon tax bill for 2019. In what became a political kerfuffle, she later retracted the statement and clarified the cost would actually be around $5,400.