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The Progressive Economics Forum

The BC NDP’s Axe-The-Tax Campaign

The BC NDP’s environment critic, Shane Simpson, wrote me to tell me why he disagrees with the BC carbon tax. With his permission, I quote:

The more I learn the more clear it becomes what a regressive and inept tax it is and why it needs to be opposed as vigorously as possible.

It hurts public services – burnaby schools today told us $1.2 million for them. Delta schools figure they will be cutting back on field trips to offset the cost. Surrey council is crunching the numbers figuring more than $2 million and the numbers grow. NGOs at our meetings are cringing. No commitment past year two to the low income to cover the impact. And for what?

Little or no impact on climate change. As Marjorie [Cohen] pointed out in her January oped taxes such as this have moderate success at very best and I challenge anyone to point out more definitive successes with a gas tax, particularly at these levels. If we want to let the market be the arbiter of climate change then it has happened in the last couple of months with skyrocketing gas prices. About a $135 tonne equivalency in terms of a carbon tax.

I believe if we want to fight climate change it will occur through a regulatory regime which includes a hard cap on emissions. It will require pricing that will ultimately be passed on to consumers – absolutely – but hopefully it will actually reduce emissions. It will require real investments in transit and support for local governments who will ultimately lead on this issue. It will occur because British Columbians actually are engaged in this discussion and embrace a plan they are part of developing.

Other than in symbolic terms this tax offers little or nothing to effect change and does hurt people and organizations that can little afford it and don’t deserve the grief. Especially when it is all to support a crass political greenwashing by Gordon Campbell while he merrily heads down a policy path that is the antithesis of sustainability on so many fronts. We can all do better.

Shane is correct on a number of points. We do need other measures in addition to carbon pricing to get real emissions reductions, and transportation investments are are top of the list. We do need a more democratic process that engages citizens in the need for change. And the carbon tax is small enough to be called symbolic, even by year five when it hits $30 per tonne.

But you cannot have it both ways. The tax cannot be the horror it is made out to be and also be symbolic. The NDP seems to be conflating arguments that play well as soundbites in focus groups but together do not make sense. As Stephen Gordon remarked (talking about the federal NDP), “The NDP is trying to suck and blow on this issue, but all it’s doing is making unpleasantly incoherent noises.”

Even if the carbon tax is symbolic, the symbol is important for our times. It means other governments are more likely to implement a carbon tax or other pricing measures, with the taboo broken. I would agree that the tax is too small, but once it is in place it is relatively easy for subsequent goverments to raise it (or it could be used to keep a floor on prices at the pump should market prices drop).

The design of the tax is also worth highlighting. It would be easy to have a tax that made income distribution worse, but about one-third of the carbon tax is recycled into a low-income credit that makes the system overall progressive, i.e. on average, poor families get more in credits than they pay in the tax (the amounts are small, about $39 in Toby Sanger and my calculations, but still …). There are some legitimate concerns about what happens in future years – we will have to wait for subsequent budgets to sort that out, and if the credit does not increase in line with the tax, the government should be hammered for it.

As for examples, how about Europe? Gas taxes are much higher there, and consumption is less. And they end the day with much more egalitarian outcomes than in Canada. Yes, public transit investments have played a role, too, but surely higher prices are part of the reason.

Shane makes a good point about impacts on schools and local governments, although we are talking relatively small amounts. I don’t want to sound callous about a $1.2 million hit for the Burnaby school board. But I also just checked, and their total operating budget is almost $200 million, so the hit is about 0.6%. It would be interesting to see how Burnaby could find ways of reducing their fossil fuel consumption to avoid the tax.

Part of my frustration with the NDP’s “axe the tax” campaign is that they actually endorse carbon pricing. In fact, their campaign materials state:

Carole James and the New Democrat Opposition support emission pricing and believe the best approach is an integrated one that includes a carbon tax at source, focuses on big polluters, and ensures record oil and gas profits are used to support reductions in emissions. To be truly
fair and effective, we must crack down on big polluters now, not at some unspecified time in the future.

… All pricing models include a cost to consumers. But while industry must pay its fair share at source, consumers should not have to pay both at the pump and in increased prices passed on by industry. Low income households must also be protected from the economic impact. And the way emissions are priced must not erode local and public services.

I look at this and fail to see much difference between the Liberals and NDP. It is just that the NDP have seized on an anti-tax message because they think it will be good for them with an election next May. They may be right, or not – so far the polls have not budged. People may not like the idea of a new tax but they may be willing to live with it as part of dealing with climate change.

Finally, the NDP is misleading people when they make statements that suggest that large emitters are not subject to the tax. All fossil fuels consumed in the province are subject to the tax, whether burned by business or households. To the extent that there are gaps in coverage it is to do with process emissions from cement and aluminum, and fugitive emissions from landfills and pipelines; they are working on coverage in these areas but could not address them in the BC budget due to budget secrecy.

While business will likely pass along the additional costs to consumers, this is true of cap-and-trade and regulatory approaches, too. The nice thing about a carbon tax is that there is a revenue stream that can be used to offset regressive impacts and make investments that accelerate the change we are seeking. It is a political decision to go for revenue neutrality, one that is rooted in our anti-tax times.

As for the hard cap on emissions, this is what setting targets is all about. A cap-and-trade system – with all of its complexity around allocations, offsets, safety valves, credits, and gaming by big players and speculators – may experience market failure at the end of the day and not meet its targets. It may sound like more certainty than a carbon tax, but I think this is largely illusory. That said, if it can be made to work, I’m all for a hybrid system – which is where the BC government is going.

Comments

Comment from Alex
Time: June 25, 2008, 4:06 pm

Putting aside the issue of the NDP’s politicking, is there any reason to believe that the low-income credit is going to increase in future years? At the CEA session on carbon trading, I was left with the impression that the overall effect will quickly be regressive as the carbon price ticks upward. Is the government’s plan silent on future years?

Separately, although I’m a student in Greater Vancouver currently, I spent several years growing up in Prince George. When I was graduating high school there back in 2002, I certainly remember how my school district was gutted by the provincial budget freeze and how many schools were closed (as a matter of fact, I directed a short documentary on the issue, as a class project). So, I’m fairly skeptical of being too casual about any more (effective) cuts to school district budgets.

Comment from duncan cameron
Time: June 25, 2008, 6:56 pm

I agree with Shane and Alex on the funding implications for small groups of increased fuel costs. It is the overall impact that hurts. Then the new tax imposes this revenue neutral ideology when it should be geared to dealing with the distress caused by fuel price increases, including those expected over the next years from the carbon tax.
The CCPA study on the carbon foot print is pretty conclusive, the more you spend the more you trash the planet. So what gives with the income tax cuts in the Dion plan of 3.5 points if you take over $100,000 a year. How does Campbell become Mr. Green when he is Mr. Tax Cut and NO SPEND on the homeless?

Comment from Peter
Time: June 25, 2008, 8:56 pm

There is an abundance of sucking and blowing on this issue and it is not, in the first instance, coming from the BC NDP.

The most problematic case of wanting things both ways is the idea that the carbon tax will act through the market to restrain consumption on the one hand, and that the negative aspects of market-driven measures will be moderated by low-income tax credits on the other.

The market is what it is. It is inherently harder on those without than it is on the well-heeled. That is why the wealthy live in fancy houses and the poorest live in carboard boxes.

Any effect that market-based measures are likely to have will inevitably work disproportionately on the low end of the income spectrum. Unless carbon taxes are prohibitively high they will do little to reduce carbon emmisions if the low end of the wage scale is let off the hook by way of tax credits. The argument that tax credits will act as an income supplement while carbon taxes remain as a disincentive to consumption is unpersuasive; income is primarily directed to esentials when you don’t have a lot of it and cash flow matters. Measures that drive up the cost of heating, transportation and food cannot be made much less painful through an annual tax credit. One cannot compensate for twelve months of immobility in an unheated slum subsisting on pet food by having a nice meal when the tax credits arrive in the mail.

Comparison to European economies is trite. Income redistribution and the rest of the social democratic thinking that is entrenched there and only barely part of political discourse on this side of the pond render references to fuel pricing in Europe meaningless. In the absence of such a social fabric, market driven measures can only weigh very disproportionately on the poor. If the poorest members of society are truly to be buffered from the effects of consumption taxes or other types of regressive tax reform in the name of the environment (as some argue is the case in western Europe) then European-style social democratic institutions are the first step. In case you’ve missed it, that’s what the NDP is about.

If the market must be used, and that seems to be a given, cap and trade is more truly a market-driven system than carbon taxation. Tax policy is a blunt instrument that does not directly transfer income from polluters to those who provide solutions. Cap and trade does. It also places hard limits on emissions; taxation policy does not and cannot.

The idea that cap and trade is untested is questionable. It is essentially how ITQ quota systems (introduced in recent years in commercial fisheries to tighten up catch controls) operate all over the world. A licence is issued (to catch fish, emit CO2, or whatever), a monitoring standard is imposed, penalties are enacted in law and off you go. The principles buy and sell (fish quota, carbon credits or whatever), the enforcement crowd watch for cheaters and bring them to court, convicted parties pay fines and may have their credits reduced or discounted, and every once in a while the system is fine-tuned with new regulations. Challenging? Of course. Doomed? Hardly.

Ultimately, tax policy must have a role to play, if only to reallocate resources from polluters to public programs like mass transit and to underwrite research in the public domain. I don’t believe that Ms. James has ever said otherwise. Its most important role may indeed turn out to be the income redistribution mechanisms that will be required regardless of the system employed to put the squeeze on emissions, however imperfectly it serves the purpose.

The idea that it is a panacea, or even the most important part of the story is a fiction, unsupported by economic theory or data. Its current fashionability is the product of the same political trend that has seen the Green Party (the main advocate of carbon taxes for the last few years) rise in the polls. People confronted with complex and troubling challenges like the idea that the answer might be simple after all.

It isn’t.

Comment from Marc Lee
Time: June 26, 2008, 2:04 am

Hmmm, those school numbers are looking softer to me all the time.

$1.2 million in carbon tax in Burnaby would mean total consumption by Burnaby schools of the equivalent of 48 million litres of gasoline. With 23,000 student FTEs, that is more than 2,000 litres per student per year. In a province with abundant hydroelectic power, this seems extremely implausible. It could be that Shane is thinking about all additional fuel costs not just the carbon tax.

Further, the draft operating budget for 2008/09 for Burnaby has the following amounts: $846,000 in student travel, up from $829K the year before; $1.042 million in professional development and travel, slightly down from the year before; and $3.265 million in utilities, up from $2.970 m the year before, almost all of which must be electricity. So, the $1.2 m number also seems way too high when set against this.

Finally, the existing gas tax is 14.5 cents per litre, with an additional 7 cents in the Metro Vancouver. Why no complaints about these, and calls for repeal, from the tax-axing NDP?

Comment from susana
Time: June 26, 2008, 7:56 am

I think the whole province should protest and shut the whole province down this is the only way the premier will know that we are seroius and that he can not push us around, we are already taxed to death.

thank you, susana

Comment from Peter
Time: June 26, 2008, 10:03 am

Marc Lee wrote:

Finally, the existing gas tax is 14.5 cents per litre, with an additional 7 cents in the Metro Vancouver. Why no complaints about these, and calls for repeal, from the tax-axing NDP?
——–

Because these taxes have not been imposed in an explicit trade-off with income taxes. The shift from income tax to consumption tax is regressive. Doubly so given the items on whci the tax will be concentrated. The use of tax credits to justify the switch is an admission of this.

Any progressive person who beleives that an explicit shift in the structure of taxation is not dangerous, especially as memories fade and the tax credit becomes just one more line item to be fiddled with by new governments, is dreaming.

Comment from Rod Smelser
Time: June 26, 2008, 10:20 am

It’s not possible to argue that a tax or other fiscal measure is an “important symbol”. If something is symbolic then it’s back to George Bush Senior style politics, campaigning at flag factories and making an “issue” out of the Pledge of Allegiance.

If someone is saying with a straight face that symbolic issues are important, then they are simply engaging in deliberate product differentiation in terms of their political positioning and posturing. They are selling the sizzle, not the steak, and doing so intentionally.

As with all product differentiation gambits, the intent is to mislead the consumer into seeing arbitrary and inconsequential distinctions as some kind of real qualitative difference that is worth paying extra for. In the political marketplace, it means deceiving the voter into thinking that one party’s (or NGO’s) product line, either policy or personnel, is somehow superior and therefore highly deserving of support, be it votes or financial contributions or both.

Comment from Marc Lee
Time: June 26, 2008, 11:10 am

Thanks for your comments, Peter. We have been diving into all of these issues on this blog for some time now:
http://www.progressive-economics.ca/category/carbon-pricing/

If you give these a read, you’ll find I’m far from a starry-eyed advocate of carbon taxes as a “panacea” for climate change. Our CCPA-BC office has also put out a discussion paper that reviews the nuances and policy options:

http://www.policyalternatives.ca/Reports/2008/02/ReportsStudies1819/

The point of the post was to highlight the NDP’s position on the carbon tax, and to note some major contradictions in their populist campaign, plus some blatantly misleading statements as part of that campaign. The Liberals have their own contradictions, which have been flagged in other posts.

There is a lot of politicking in this debate on all sides, and this blog is about assessing arguments in terms of economics and policy.

Over the medium term, I think we are probably looking at something like carbon quotas, a cap-and-trade system for households, but this will take some time to develop. Hey, it would be great if the NDP got behind this idea! In the meantime, the BC model, while far from perfect, is a good start.

Comment from Peter
Time: June 26, 2008, 2:42 pm

Marc,

I am all for “assessing arguments in terms of economics and policy.”

On the other hand I’m not sure how your assertion that “It is just that the NDP have seized on an anti-tax message because they think it will be good for them with an election next May” fits in that context. It sounded a lot like ” politicking” to me, as did other aspects of your piece.

I think that you could easily have chosen to see the NDP campaign materials as context for their opposition to the particular legislation brought in in BC. Instead, you characterise their opposition to the BC legislation as full blown opposition to carbon taxes as any part of the equation. That was, I think, not nuanced.

I cannot speak for Ms. James or her Party, or for her environment critic Shane Simpson. I can say that the campaign material you quote sounds reasonable, and is in no way inconsistent with opposition to the current BC carbon tax legislation.

Economic and policy discussions of inherently regressive change to the structure of taxation must be placed in the context of the social policy framework in which they will be implemented. Reference to tax credits does not even begin to tell the whole story regarding social impacts.

Carbon tax in the context of a social democratic policy framework carries very different implications than carbon tax in a neo-liberal or neo-conservative environment. This must be explicit in any discussion of these issues that lays claim to progressiveness.

From where I sit, the social policy framework in BC does not provide reason for optimism as to how the proposed carbon tax system will impact low income BCers.

Comment from Stuart Murray
Time: June 26, 2008, 3:32 pm

Susanna wrote:

“I think the whole province should protest and shut the whole province down this is the only way the premier will know that we are seroius and that he can not push us around, we are already taxed to death.”

This is exactly what’s wrong with the “axe the tax” campaign. All of a sudden people are talking about a general strike on the grounds that our taxes are too high, and it doesn’t look out of place. God forbid the NDP formed government with this kind of mandate.

This is beginning to look like the “free hat” episode of South Park.

I’m spending my $100 on an LED torchiere to replace my old Halogen lamp. I think that is a response of appropriate scale.

Comment from Alex
Time: June 26, 2008, 5:38 pm

Hmm. I suppose I might not have picked the best thread in which to raise my questions and concerns about the carbon tax, since the present discussion is more about the NDP.

(Irrelevantly, I’m not impressed with “axe the tax,” and I’m generally as disillusioned with the NDP as I am with the other parties.)

But I’ll give it another shot. Again, politicking aside, I am certainly interested to know if there is any reason to expect the low-income credits to increase once the carbon price begins to uptick in BC. Based on the CEA session, my impression was that there is little reason for optimism. Perhaps (hopefully) I am mistaken?

Second, as a (once) northerner, I am concerned about the uncompensated costs of the BC carbon tax on entities like school districts, as well as on rural and northern communities more generally. Apparently the federal plan addresses this issue (although I’ve only examined it through reading news reports and this blog, so I won’t claim to have parsed through the details).

In terms of the BC carbon tax, as with other issues, it’s an unpleasant (and all-too-common) mistake to dismiss the serious concerns of people in rural and northern communities. (Particularly, I’d argue, when one stops and considers that these are massively productive areas of the province, which contribute a great amount of wealth that flows to the Lower Mainland).

I appreciated Marc’s point at the CEA session that redistributing a substantial portion of carbon tax revenue to low-income families enhances the capacity of these folks to make environmentally-friendly, carbon-reducing (and, of course, as a result of the tax, cost-saving) investments.

Shouldn’t the same logic apply to cash-strapped public institutions? And to those disproportionately affected by the tax, like northern communities? These are not rhetorical questions; I’m open to suggestion. :)

From my current understanding, these strike me as substantial problems, which make it hard to see the glass as half full about the BC carbon tax. (Nor am I heartened by the official opposition’s tack. So, it’s a bit depressing all around.)

Comment from Adam T
Time: June 26, 2008, 5:51 pm

My email to Harvey Enchin.

As many of you are probably aware, the moronic ranter Harvey Enchin published his latest screed today.

I just wanted to make my email to him public so that we can maybe get rid of this clown.

You wrote “As it happens, economic stagnation is the goal of the environmental movement”

Let David Suzuki explain…

I don’t know what David Suzuki was referring to, and as an economics student myself, I am aware that many economists don’t care for him.

However, his comment said “the STANDARD policies promoting economic growth…”

Many economists, all far superior to you, have in fact argued that taxing externalities such as carbon pollution produces better long term economic results. This may have, in fact been what Suzuki was referring to: that economic policies that tax externalities are better than ‘standard policies promoting economic growth.”

You are sleazy and dishonest and an embarrasment to the economics profession. It would be wonderful if you would stop writing your idiotic, dishonest rants.

Comment from Adam T
Time: June 26, 2008, 9:24 pm

Here is a paper on standard environmental economics and how they work. Most important is the concept of the equimarginal principle.

http://www.env-econ.net/carbon_tax_vs_capandtrade.html

No doubt this is just for a first year course, but the basic argument is that there is essentially no difference between a carbon tax and cap and trade.

Comment from Adam T
Time: June 26, 2008, 9:29 pm

Here is a basic primer on carbon taxes vs. carbon cap and trade. To be sure, it is taken from a first year course, but, I think it explains the basic principles well.

http://www.env-econ.net/carbon_tax_vs_capandtrade.html

Comment from Peter
Time: June 27, 2008, 1:31 pm

I think the link provided by Adam T is useful basic treatment of the economic theory underlying the discussion.

However, it tells us nothing about the political and social implications of using a legislated hard cap (and trade) versus tax structuring to achieve the goal of reduced carbon emissions. That is where the thing gets messy.

I do not trust any system based on expansion of regressive taxes and contraction of progressive taxes to be administered without bias toward low income earners.

As part of a comprehensive package that includes strong policy on income distribution and social programs (as distinct from ad hoc tax credits that can vapourize at the whim of government) carbon taxes can have their place. Absent these things cap-and-trade and carbon tax have quite different implications.

Comment from Rod Smelser
Time: July 1, 2008, 10:38 pm

“God forbid the NDP formed government with this kind of mandate.”

Politicking indeed, as this quote from Stuart Murray makes clear. Let me just repeat that the political moves on the government’s side are largely a case of political imagery, or to borrow an economic phrase from monopolistic competition, “product differentiation”. And it’s working for them!

Comment from Stuart Murray
Time: July 2, 2008, 8:27 pm

OMG, like, I was on this web site where we were all talking about economics, and this guy started talking about politics. And I was like nuh-uh. Then he started dissing my friends and I was like “come here and say that.” After school he is so gonna get it.

Comment from MF Procaccini
Time: July 18, 2008, 10:01 pm

As a long-time labour and co-op movement activist and urban ecologist, I personally have become totally disgusted with what passes for the “environmental movement” in this country, and their support for this fraud of a so-called “carbon tax” just takes the cake.

Mark Lee, a now not-so respected economist in my books, actually has the gall to damn the NDP for supposedly making “misleading statements” about the tax (which I have yet to see), yet continues to repeat blatant baloney about the non-existent “benefits” of this tax.

To cut to the chase in point form:

–“carbon tax,” to have any meaning what so ever, has to be based on the full cost accounting of carbon emissions where they originate: at source, where the total percentage of carbon within base elements that is released into the atmosphere can be assessed. That’s what makes carbon taxes successful in Europe, brought in by social democratic governments, and what the NDP is advocating here.

–The Liberals’ tax is nothing more than an added fuel tax imposed on working class people (the vast majority of motorists) as basically a cost-recovery measure for the over $700 million they threw away on hand-outs to the major oil companies–some of the worst polluters in BC. Campbell himself has been forced to admit his bogus tax will only apply to about 25 per cent of carbon emissions in BC. That’s not a carbon tax.

–Carbon taxes can only be successful if they are accompanied by infrastructure investments in new clean fuel technology, public transit and other direct measures to move the economy more away from fossil fuel dependency. Again, this is what the NDP is calling for.

–The Liberals’ tax isn’t even a progressive fuel tax, since none of the revenues–ZIPPO–go into investing in GHG-reducing infrastructure technology. Instead, they go to, as said, off-set huge corporate tax giveaways and a pathetic $100 rebate to working people, which gives them practically nothing to invest in clean technology.

–Contrary to what backward-thinking “environmentalists” (i.e. david Suzuki, so-called “Green” Party, etc) say, raising fuel prices on an already over-spent, under-paid, overly indebted car-dependent population without developing transportation alternatives for them to access is a rip-off. Period. The NDP is correct in pointing this out.

–That’s why it is calling for universal carbon tax to be implemented incrementally and matched with development of alternatives so people can still get around while driving less or least not having to rely on fossil fuel motors.

–Finally, while the Liberals fraudulently claim they care about the environment, they are pushing for further open-net fish farming, thermal fossil power generation, surface-stripping coal bed methane extraction and lifting the off-shore oil drilling moratorium, as well as river-stripping over-priced private power initiative and sticking people with the huge power rate increases.

–the NDP is calling to lift the block on BC Hydro to invest in large-scale clean power production (wind, solar, tidal, etc.), developing non-fossil-fuel motor technology, community economic development, diversification via labour and cooperative investment and business models, etc.

In short, this bogus “carbon tax” is supported by three main groups of people:

1) Those who don’t know what carbon taxes and related climate change initiatives are

2) Those with a vested interest in prostituting the fraudulent destructive Liberal regime and its pathetic policies

3) Those who are merely wear a superficial “environmentalist” label and are comforted by symbolic meaningless gestures and rhetoric on the environment rather than serious economic reform to address these concerns.

I have been strong advocate of carbon taxes, infrastructure investment and fundamental economic restructuring toward a more democratic, sustainable and truly prosperous economy more in harmony with nature.

To see this regime push this fraud in everyone’s face and, worse yet, to see people and groups I once considered allies supporting it is truly saddening.

Comment from Bruce C
Time: November 5, 2008, 4:34 pm

Government intervention – not market forces – ended slavery centuries before market forces would have.

Government intervention – not market forces – gave women the vote decades before market forces would have.

Government intervention – not market forces – banned lead from childen’s toys, places restrictions on guns in this country, limits smoking in public places and has abolished capital punishment.

Government intervention – not market forces – through regulation, could have prevented the collapse of the derivatives market in the US and the subsequent meltdown in the liquidity markets where hard working people have seen their investments, life savings and retirement funds eroded to the point where retirement may no longer be possible. “Market Forces”, even now through the unanimous admissions of the staunchest of US advocates of such, Greenspan, Levitt and Rubin, are what got us into this economic problem.

It is the bravery and leadership of Government intervention – not market forces – that is needed to lead the way to radically changing social patterns and limiting, if not hopefully someday reversing, the devastating effects that global warming is having upon our province, country and planet. Stephen, I agree with you that consumers needed to be given an incentive to change their behaviour. Unfortunately, we may not have the leisure or abundance of time to simply sit back and allow market forces to gradually determine the radically needed fundamental change in social patterns and attitudes. This is where government’s can, and must, provide leadership and act – and taxation policy is an excellent and responsible avenue to do so.

I am so deeply disappointed and personally ashamed with Carole James’ continued public call to end the carbon tax. Perhaps she is indifferent on the issue of climate change and the heritage that our generation will leave for the next – and how many, perhaps limited, generations beyond that. Perhaps she is just desperately seeking to score political advantage. Perhaps it is the fundamental mechanics of the carbon tax that she cannot somehow comprehend. For somebody who seeks to become Premier of this Province however, I find that hard to believe – or perhaps just convenient perhaps. Please allow me to demonstrate for Carole how the carbon tax works in the most admittedly grossly, overly-simplified terms possible that will allow her to perhaps somehow grasp the concept. Please think in terms of a carbon tax of $5/litre – period. That’s it – that’s all. Yes, I said a $5/litre tax – revenue-neutral of course through offsetting tax policy (or dividend cheque – whatever) allowing you to do such things as install solar power or thermal power and other programs – or even put it back in your tank if you want or have to, the former making much more financial sense for most people though as the savings will be sustainable and perpetuating – and socially responsible. Just stop and think about that for a minute. What impact would that have on you personally? How would it change your thinking and your habits? I would suggest profoundly. Think about how patterns of transportation and human behavior would be profoundly altered with $6/litre gas. At its absolute broadest and most illustrative, that is how the carbon tax works Carole. Public transportation would be grossly advantageous. Needless miles driven would be eliminated. Electric vehicles would not only be viable but cheaper. Solar power would be financially feasible. Locally grown food would be much cheaper. And so on. Think on it for a while.

We are living in a world where market forces have been long subsidized by cheap oil without the environmental cost ever being factored into that equation. Who knew? We eat cheap food from all over the world and think nothing of it as trucks clog our freeways and choke our skies to bring us cheap oranges from Florida, cheap bananas from Bolivia and cheap cameras and watches from China – only to throw them away after two years and then buy another because they broke and it is just cheaper to buy a new one. Market forces my ass. It is time that we begin to measure that environmental cost and factor it in. Simply allowing market forces to do so may take decades or centuries, if ever. And even then, there will always be some that will be unwilling to change and adapt, and will simply get a free, subsidized ride, the only cost being upon their conscience. Governments need to step in and take the lead – and act now.

Carole James thinking unfortunately represent the same thinking as my father who got into a huge fight with me because he insisted on his plastic bag at the Home Depot to take home his box of screws – the same box of screws that he just spent 15 minutes carrying around the store but could not carry them another 30 seconds to the car – because that is the way he has always done it and it is simply “inconvenient” to change. Damned if he was going to change – not even one plastic bag could he sacrifice! People like that (and there are lots of them like my Dad and Carole James) will not change unless they are forced to. The assertion that this goes against personal freedom and market forces is the same thinking that Greenspan, Levitt and Rubin espoused a decade ago on US Derivatives that has landed us in the financial mess we find ourselves currently. To a man, they all admit now that they were wrong. When is your turn coming Carole – when we are spending our holidays basking on the warm, sandy beaches of the Beaufort Sea?

Many assert that the Federal Liberals lost the election because of the carbon tax. I think that is just plain wrong – if not damaging and destructive for those seeking fundamental environmental change and political leadership. Speaking with family and friends who did not vote Liberal, most of the reason was that they are sick of the old boys, centralist, scandal plagued, self-entitled, left wing, Liberal cronies that are interested only in preserving power over serving their country. The carbon tax and the apparent sincere integrity of Stephane Dion seemed to be amongst the only reasons to consider putting an X beside a Liberal at the ballot box – but far from enough.

The last person I read of so espousing the supposed myth of global warming and thus negating the call for needed change, was Michael Chernoff of the Chernoff Family Foundation – who spent their tax free dollars distributing the movie entitled “The Great Global Warming Swindle” to school children. What a noble cause to which to dedicate one’s life and establish one’s legacy. It turns out though that Mr. Chernoff was also a director of Encana, the largest oil and gas producer in Canada and, accordingly, owned 1,539,540 shares and 32,179 deferred share units in such. Accordingly, I wonder aloud what is in Carole James’ “political portfolio” that would so encourage her repeated calls for the elimination of the carbon tax – especially now with oil at $65/barrel.

My wife says that we all have choices of either contributing to or contaminating society. Where does the BC NDP stand with their call to abort the carbon tax? My wife also says that sticking your head in the sand is a good way to get our collective asses kicked. My wife is a very smart person. The province, if not the world, is desperately looking for leadership at this critical juncture in our history. I sincerely hope we are blessed with the political leadership and the collective will to make the courageous changes and sacrifices needed ahead.

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