As usual, Doug Ford has it wrong on carbon tax

Posted on in Governance Debates

Source: — Authors:

TheStar.com – Opinion/Editorials
April 1, 2019.   By

Premier Doug Ford is right about one thing: there is a genuine long-term threat to the prosperity of Ontario and indeed the rest of Canada.

But, as usual, Ford has it all exactly backwards.

The threat isn’t the federal carbon tax that took effect on Monday, which adds 4.4 cents to the price of a litre of gasoline. No one enjoys paying more, but Ford’s attempts to demagogue this as a “job-killing” tax that’s likely to tip the country into a recession are frankly ridiculous.

To put it in perspective: world markets have sent gas prices plummeting by 30 cents a litre in the past few months, only to rise again by more than 20 cents. Somehow our economy has managed to cope just fine with this extreme volatility; the carbon tax effect is close to a mere blip beside that.

On top of which, as Ford well knows, Ottawa plans to rebate 90 per cent of the revenue from the tax back to taxpayers. The extra $2 it will cost to fill the tank of a mid-size car will amount to more like 20 cents once the rebates go out.

No, the real threat to our long-term future is precisely what the carbon tax is designed to head off — climate change. We’re already dealing with the effects in more erratic and extreme weather patterns, and much more is on the way.

It is easier, though, and quite possibly more politically profitable to brush all that aside and focus on the immediate effect of paying a bit more at the pump and on home heating bills.

The Trudeau government deserves credit for pushing ahead with a national carbon pricing plan, and for imposing the new tax in Ontario and three other provinces that lack such plans.

It should be a fairly easy sell. Economists of all political stripes agree that a carbon tax is the most effective way to cut back on greenhouse gas emissions.

And the way the government has structured it, most people stand to come out ahead once they’ve collected their tax rebate. The idea, and it’s a good one, is to raise the price of carbon-intensive activities and give people a financial incentive to reduce them.

But carbon pricing is a tricky thing. It has the merit of being transparent — everyone can see and understand it. But that’s the very thing that makes it easy to demonize. The immediate costs are obvious but the benefits can be years down the road.

From a crassly political point of view, it’s better to hide the costs by promising to reduce greenhouse gases through regulations on polluting industries or subsidizing businesses in the hope they’ll come up with cleaner technology.

This is the route the Ford government chose to go down with the watered-down climate plan it introduced last fall. And in the meantime it plans to spend millions of taxpayer dollars on an advertising blitz attacking the federal plan.

It’s the height of shamelessness: using our own taxes to campaign against the only coherent plan to fight climate change, and simultaneously soften up voters for Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer’s own anti-carbon tax pitch in the coming federal election.

In Alberta, United Conservative Leader Jason Kenney is taking much the same approach. He promises to scrap carbon pricing if he wins the April 16 election there and scale back the province’s efforts to fight climate change.

Both premiers are acting as stalking horses for Scheer, who so far hasn’t even bothered to put forward a climate plan. When he eventually does, it’s a safe bet he will follow the lead of Ford and Kenney and undermine Canada’s hard-won reputation as a leader on this issue.

Voters shouldn’t buy what the Conservatives are selling. One way or another we will have to pay the costs of climate change. And at the moment the federal government has put forward the best plan to deal with this historic challenge.

https://www.thestar.com/opinion/editorials/2019/04/01/as-usual-doug-ford-has-it-wrong-on-carbon-tax.html

Tags: , , , ,

This entry was posted on Tuesday, April 2nd, 2019 at 3:31 pm and is filed under Governance Debates. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

Leave a Reply