Ontario should look to B.C. model for new carbon tax

Posted on January 14, 2015 in Governance Policy Context

TheGlobeandMail.com – Globe Debate/Editorials
Jan. 13 2015.

At last, the carbon-tax wave is lapping at Ontario’s shores.

The pledge from Canada’s most populous province and second-largest emitter of greenhouse gases to unveil its plan to put a price on carbon in 2015 is welcome news.

It’s also high time the Ontario Liberals delivered on their long-standing promise to introduce such a measure. The province should table legislation this year.

When Ontario’s as-yet undefined proposal is enacted, Canada’s four largest provinces (which are home to 30 million people) will have taken concrete action on setting a price for emissions.

The approaches vary widely, from Alberta’s comparatively timid Specified Gas Emitters Regulation, to British Columbia’s overarching, revenue-neutral levy on carbon-based fuels, by way of Quebec’s bilateral cap-and-trade agreement with California.

Ontario Environment Minister Glen Murray says he’s drafting a strategy described as comprehensive, and which he claims will be “real, efficient, effective and economically positive.”

Those are laudable goals, and to achieve them Mr. Murray should borrow a page (or 10) from B.C.’s handbook. Under the policies set out in 2008 by then-premier Gordon Campbell, fuels are taxed according to the emissions they generate, with an accompanying – and offsetting – decrease in income tax.

The beauty of the system lies in its simplicity: It slashes pollution, costs virtually nothing, has no adverse economic effects and doesn’t target the oil and gas industry.

Ontario might be tempted to embrace a cap-and-trade approach, which could be politically expedient (read: negotiable), but in our view that would be a missed opportunity.

The evidence is in, and the effectiveness of B.C.’s carbon regime is beyond dispute.

Perhaps adopting a carbon tax can nudge other high-emitting provinces – hello there, Alberta and Saskatchewan – toward seizing the moment.

More immediately, it should permit a grown-up discussion during a federal election year.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s obduracy regarding carbon taxes is well-documented. But not even the fiercest partisans can ignore good ideas forever. The momentum for more stringent carbon pricing in Canada is building.

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One Response to “Ontario should look to B.C. model for new carbon tax”

  1. Adam Endive says:

    BC’s carbon tax has not achieved the results they claim to have achieved. The highly touted carbon tax “drove” the locals to the US – cross border gas purchases went up more than 50% and people did what people do – find a way around it. And BC’s emissions have actually gone up, not down.

    Alas, statistics can be manipulated to suit any purpose and so we are left with this fantasy that carbon pricing will make the difference. What it will do is aid in the transfer of wealth from one class of people to another which is, as Voltaire once said, the art of politics.


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