Tuesday, February 26, 2008

BC's Carbon Tax

A year ago Premier Gordon Campbell painted himself green, following in the footsteps of the California Governator. Campbell had committed to slashing BC's greenhouse gas emissions 30% by 2020. Would he succeed? Was he really serious? These are the questions we've been asking ourselves for the past twelve months. Now the other green shoe has dropped and Campbell's finance minister Carol Taylor has presented a “green budget” that includes one of the first real carbon taxes in North America.

The BC carbon tax, effective July 1, will start at $10 a metric ton. That's 2.4 cents a litre, in case you're wondering. By 2012 the tax will rise to about $30 a ton. This is not an increase in taxes it's a “tax shift” because the government plans to compensate taxpayers for the lost revenue by doling out $100 to every citizen and decreasing income tax across the board.

Both the Sierra Club and the Mining Association of British Columbia are in favour of this budget. Marc Lee, senior economist for The Canadian Center for Policy Alternatives, a left-wing think tank, said “ certainly the best budget I've seen coming out of the liberals.” And the president of the BC Chamber of Commerce, John Winter said: “I think we were nicely surprised.” Can this be happening? Talk about politics being the art of the possible.

For someone who used to despise Gordon Campbell, I have to admit I'm impressed. But I still don't trust him. After all he hasn't done anything about the billion dollars in subsidies that BC gives the oil and gas industry every year. And he's pouring one billion dollars into highways while at the same time giving only a pittance - about a third as much for public transit.

Instituting a carbon tax, is an excellent first step on the road to combating climate change. And it doesn't hurt that business and the environmentalists are on side right from the beginning. A carbon tax has the potential to bring the price of fossil fuels in line with their contribution to global warming. Once prices reflect reality on the ground then the market can do its work of nudging people in the direction of conserving energy, buying more fuel efficient cars, or driving less and using alternatives more.

“When you walk, you save money, you save yourself, and you save health care costs,” said Gordon Campbell last week. If I didn't know any better I'd swear that Campbell has been reading my newspaper column.

The dark cloud on the Horizon is Alberta. Premier Stelmach and Prime Minister Harper are dead set against a carbon tax because it would stall the growth of the tar sands. Harper made a clandestine deal with the United States in 2006 to ramp up tar sands production fivefold by 2020. His hands are tied by his foolish agreement, so he has no intention of actually lowering greenhouse gas emissions (GHG's).

A fivefold increase in tar sands production would yield an estimated 140 million tons of GHG's per year. That would be about three times what Premier Campbell plans for all of BC by 2020.

Harper's environment minister John Baird is pedalling something called “carbon intensity targets.” which is a public relations scam for making the appearance of lowering emissions without actually lowering emissions. Kind of reminiscent of tobacco companies suggesting that “light” cigarettes were better for your health. Carbon intensity targets are also favoured by Premier Ed Stelmach and U.S. President George W. Bush. Do I detect a pattern here?

The vacuum of leadership on global warming in the United States has led to governors like Arnold Schwarzenegger taking the initiative to lower emissions through emission caps and stricter fuel efficiency standards for cars – all of which have been mightily resisted by the Bush administration.

The same vacuum of leadership exists in Canada but Premier Campbell has taken a solid first step in the fight against global warming. Other provinces are sure to follow. The dynamics of Canadian politics is changing and the greatest threat to national unity now comes from Alberta and not Quebec.


  1. mr. harper is against carbon taxes?
    he wants cap and trade which is the same thing.The conservatives and liberals are all following the UN with sustainable development which means they will drive up high energy costs and drive the manufacturing out of this country
    Maurice Strong admitted this.He is the same guy that put the phony IPCC report together with al gore and they both share carbon trading companies.
    Strong -mentor to paul martin,godfather to bob rae-the con is in -this country seems to be full of communist leaders.
    they want to live the high life but they want the rest of us to remain as peasants

  2. ENRON in 1990 employees admited to the washington post that they where trying to start a global warming hysteria so that they could introduce carbon credits on to the market.Mo Strong worked with Enron and he now lives or hides out in China
    Why is coal the largest export of Canada?It all seems to be going to China and India for the factories that many of our politicians invest in.
    ENRON was in the start of the wind industry in Europe 30 years ago.
    All engineers are calling it a scam because you can not count on the wind so everything is backed up by gas plants.So the big corporations get their carbon credits for running inefficient wind energy and gas plants