The politics of the carbon tax, largely a BC phenomenon until now, have gone national in the face of a likely October federal election. Just last week in BC, a poll revealed the NDP ahead of the Liberals for the first time in several years — within the margin of error, mind you, but significant for a party that has been trailing. While there are plenty of good reasons why the Liberals should get beaten up at the polls, one of the key reasons for the change is the carbon tax, due to an aggressive (if questionable) campaign by the NDP and poor communications by the government.
In some public opinion work I’ve seen, two messages about BC’s carbon tax come out loud and clear. The first is that revenue neutrality is a bust — people may be willing to live with a new tax on carbon but think that giving the money back is a dumb idea; they would rather have revenues spent on public transit or anything else that would reinforce climate action. Second, they want tough action on industry.
Federally, the Conservatives are getting the same messages. Natural Resources Minster Gary Lunn, a BC boy, is quoted in this CP story:
“I think bringing in a carbon tax (has) got to be one of the policy initiatives that I could not disagree with it more,” he said. “I’m trying to tame my words here. Tell me, (when was) the last time you had a government come out and say, ‘listen we want to give you a new tax, so that we can give it back to you?’ I just don’t buy it.”
… Lunn said the Tories plan to place tough anti-pollution regulations on industry instead.
The big question here is whether the Tories, who want food inspection deregulated, would be willing to bring in “tough anti-pollution regulations”. They certainly have done nothing of the sort, in close to three years in power.
If both the federal and BC Liberals lose elections on the basis of the carbon tax, it would take carbon taxes off the table for all of North America, potentially forever. So there better be one mightily effective cap-and-trade system to take its place, and the prospects of that seem dim, given the state of the Western Climate Initiative negotiations.
- Ten things to know about the 2016-17 Alberta budget (May 3rd, 2016)
- Political Reality and Climate Policy: A Response to Mark Jaccard (February 11th, 2016)
- BC’s Carbon Emissions on the Rise (May 8th, 2015)
- Will Nova Scotia Implement a Carbon Tax? (February 16th, 2015)
- Trudeau, Carbon Pricing, Regional Politics, and Technology Policy (January 23rd, 2015)