BC VIEWS: Voter’s guide to carbon taxes

Revenue neutral, state-controlled green infrastructure, or keep it in the ground

B.C. NDP leader John Horgan has set out his vision for B.C.’s carbon tax, now that the party finds itself able to advocate the measure it once bitterly opposed.

Here’s a quote from the NDP’s 2009 election platform, under leader Carole James: “Gordon Campbell’s plan increases taxes for average families by tripling the gas tax. And Campbell’s top advisor says it has to increase to 24 cents on every litre of gas.”

Since Campbell’s former finance minister Carole Taylor introduced it, it did indeed triple, to $30 per tonne of carbon dioxide emissions, where it has stayed since Christy Clark became premier. That translates to about seven cents on a litre of gasoline.

Then last year, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau decreed that the “carbon price” shall be raised nation-wide, $10 each year to $50 a tonne, by 2022. That’s 12 cents on a litre of gasoline. If provinces don’t do it by carbon tax or emissions trading, Trudeau will attempt to force it on them.

Clark’s intention is to wait until 2021, when other provinces have caught up to B.C., then raise it in two $10 increments. Horgan proposes to do it in three stages.

Clark has pledged that it will remain revenue neutral, with proceeds returned mainly via reduced personal, small business and corporate income tax rates, a northern and rural homeowner benefit of up to $200 a year, a seniors’ home renovation tax credit and a few other breaks.

These tax breaks are real, despite what people may say down at your local coffee shop. The first two provincial income tax brackets are currently reduced by five per cent, and the province expects to pay out $83 million this year in northern and rural credits.

Reductions to the general corporate income tax rate are budgeted to total $236 million this year. That’s a target for Horgan, judging by his rhetoric about the current system benefiting Clark’s “corporate backers.”

Horgan also wants to spend some of the proceeds of future carbon tax increases on energy efficiency, transit and so forth. He promises to leave the personal income tax reductions alone.

Green Party leader Andrew Weaver looks like your best choice to impose that 24-cents-a-litre tax that the NDP warned us about eight years ago. That’s a rate that would actually force more people onto bikes and buses. Other than that, Weaver’s main focus these days is to kill B.C.’s natural gas industry.

Horgan’s reluctant conversion to climate warrior is now complete. He has adopted the term “carbon pollution,” which is, to be polite about it, a false description that defies even high-school science about the basis of all life on Earth.

He is right, however, that B.C.’s emissions continue to rise as population and the economy grow.

And here’s the bottom line, B.C. voters. Even if you accept the propaganda that human-generated CO2 is suddenly the sole driver of climate change, when you look at a global context, none of this Canadian posturing matters a damn bit.

Barack Obama’s great Paris climate deal with China and India allows them to continue ramping up emissions until at least 2030. Donald Trump will soon pull the U.S. out of the toothless Paris accord and end Obama’s “war on coal.” So that’s the world’s top three greenhouse gas emitters out.

Your choices for May 9 are: the BC Liberal status quo, the NDP embarking on a state-directed infrastructure program funded by you, or the Green Party’s vision to keep our carbon fuels in the ground, as our American-financed protest industry keeps demanding.

Tom Fletcher is B.C. legislature reporter and columnist for Black Press. Email: tfletcher@blackpress.ca Twitter: @tomfletcherbc

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