B.C.’s Carbon Tax is a work in progress

B.C.’s carbon tax is a good start; admired internationally and a model for others. Since January, France and Mexico have implemented similar carbon taxes.

carbon tax

North Thompson MLA, Terry Lake, likes the tax now as much as when he was Minister of the Environment. In his Twitter feed, he recently referred to a glowing article in the Globe and Mail “The shocking truth about B.C.’s carbon tax: It works.”

The article quotes the latest numbers from Statistics Canada that show the carbon tax has been a success for the environment and the economy. Carbon taxes have pushed personal income taxes to the lowest in the country. Taxing carbon has also reduced fuel consumption; down by 16 per cent in B.C. even as the rest of Canada went up by 3 per cent.

Lake, now Minister of Health, has reason to be proud. The carbon tax was a progressive idea from a government that has deep conservative roots. Contrast that with the federal conservatives who have their heads buried in the tar sands. Prime Minister Stephen Harper repeatedly claims that a carbon tax would “destroy jobs and growth.”

“Far from a being a ‘job killer,’ it is a world-leading example of how to tackle one of the greatest global challenges of our time: building an economy that will prosper in a carbon-constrained world,” laud the authors. Since the introduction of the carbon tax in 2008, our GDP has slightly outperformed the rest of Canada’s.

However, the carbon tax is a work in progress and the government can’t rest on its laurels. Emissions must be included such as Liquefied Natural Gas which are about to metaphorically explode into production and spew out billions of tonnes of CO2.

Changes to the carbon tax have made it less fair to middle and lower income tax payers. When first introduced, tax rebates went to 40 per cent of taxpayers. Since then, the carbon tax has tripled but the tax rebates have not says the Canadian Centre of Policy Alternatives.

If the B.C. government is serious about meeting its own objective of reducing carbon emissions by 33 per cent in 2020 there is still some political heavy lifting to do. Furthermore, they are legally obligated to expand coverage to 80 per cent of all emissions.

Does the B.C. government have the courage of its convictions? Premier Clark’s goal of drilling for LNG will increase emissions by an estimated 9 per cent. That’s before the gas is burned as fuel. Despite her claims that the clean natural gas will offset the burning of coal in target markets such as China, in reality the burning of our gas will add to existing global carbon emissions.

And while the Globe article gushes about our low income and corporate taxes, it would be a mistake to suggest that the B.C. somehow operates on less revenue: the carbon tax, other taxes, and fees simply make up the difference.

The government should be applauded for the work it has done in slowing global warming but there is much more to do.

 

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