By Collin Gallant on January 28, 2019.
The leader of a church in Medicine Hat at the centre of a social media uproar over a political candidate’s claims the carbon tax bill at the facility will be $50,000 tells the News the figure is ten times too high.
At about the same time on Monday morning, United Conservative candidate Michaela Glasgo posted a clarification on Facebook stating that after receiving a detailed message from church officials the figure is closer to $5,400.
“This is still a sizable sum for a not-for-profit that is already dealing with the burden of increased costs, and I do not think the impact should be downplayed,” she wrote on Facebook, only hours after defending the number earlier in the day.
Glasgo was heavily criticized on social media since Sunday when she said her church faced a $50,000 cost increase due to the Alberta carbon levy.
Hundreds of commenters asked how that could be possible considering an average home pays about $150 per year on the charge. Many others suggested the bills be posted, or that politics were at play.
Steve Pahl, the lead pastor at Hillcrest Church in Medicine Hat, said that he was surprised to see part of his address to parishioners on Sunday become the focus of so much discussion.
He says he discussed the churches finances with the 1,500-member congregation, stating that operating costs had risen $50,000. The carbon levy is part of that, he told the News, but it also includes other utility costs, an increase to a snow-clearing contract and other building maintenance.
“We were letting people know that our overall costs have gone up and encouraged people to help support those costs… It’s all the things related to our facility,” Pahl said, stating that he believes the issues is a misunderstanding that he would prefer his church was left out of ‘political discussions.
“We’re not interested in political discussions,” said Pahl. “I sure would have loved to have her ask me some of these questions — ‘Did I hear you right?’ — and I would have discouraged here from sending that out.”
In total the carbon levy added $5,400 to the church’s bill in 2017, the first year is was charged, he said.
Responding to calls for a audit of the then unnamed church’s finances, Glasgo said early Monday she hoped the “non-political nature” of the church would be respected.
On Sunday, the UCP candidate in the Brooks-Medicine Hat riding, posted on Twitter the $50,000 carbon tax bill was an example of the harm New Democrats had done to the non-profit sector.
“Unbelievable,” she wrote. “Today at church we learned that the Carbon Tax is going to cost our church $50 000 this year ALONE. That’s the cost of one less pastor for the sick and suffering and less help for those who need it most in our community.”
The original post had been retweeted or forwarded on about 1,300 times by 9 a.m. on Monday and garnered hundreds of comments mostly questioning the number, demanding the bills be shown to the public, and claiming Glasgo was spreading false information.
That post was forwarded by the account of party leader Jason Kenney, but also led to a torrent of activity from people questioning how it could be so high.
Glasgo responded on Facebook early Monday supporting her original statement.
“But make no mistake, groups are feeling the stress,” she stated. “This is especially true for not-for-profit, community groups — something the NDP was explicitly warned about when they announced their carbon tax (after coming to power in 2016).”
She also pushed back at critics, saying “some carbon tax advocates would prefer to belittle individuals and organizations that are feeling the stress of the NDP’s carbon tax… Personally, I’m proud to be running for a party that has made Bill No. 1 of a future United Conservative government the ‘Carbon Tax Repeal Act.’
On Sunday, Kenney stated on social media that the party “hears stories like this all the time, sadly.”
The UCP has said the carbon tax, charged on natural gas and vehicle fuel, is a drain on the economy and would be axed if they gain power in this spring’s expected election.
The governing New Democrats say the revenue from the levy is mostly rebated to individual Albertans, pays for industry to reduce emissions, and provides grants to other businesses, non-profits groups and homeowners to make buildings more efficient.
The carbon levy charges $1.52 on every gigajoule of natural gas used by a utility customer, as well as 6.78-cents per litre of gasoline, but nothing on electricity. To accumulate a $50,000 levy charge, a facility would have to use 33,000 gigajoule of gas, enough to heat 250 homes.
A three-year old report by the City of Medicine Hat states carbon levy cost on the city’s operations would be about $440,000 in 2018, when the price was last increased. City operations include heating arenas, recreation facilities, several large office buildings and operating an 800-vehicle fleet.
You must be logged in to post a comment.