The carbon tax goes to the polls

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.


  • The chances of Harper bringing in any kind of serious climate change policy – tax, regulation, or cap-and-trade – are much worse than dim.

    What he might do is dump a lot of public money on corporate handouts masquerading as climate policy. That would be consistent with his core ideology of strangling government capacity while giving more money to those who already have lots. And it would be favourable for his only two constituencies: Big Oil, and movement conservatives.

    As I said to Jack Layton in a meeting of NGOs in Edmonton, Stephen Harper is a very dangerous person for climate change policy, and for Canada more generally, and he needs to be unelected.

    In my view the sole priority for any opposition party this fall should be to get Harper out of power.

    Doing anything else (e.g. sniping among the opposition to try to marginally increase party seat counts) would be extremely stupid and destructive for climate policy and for Canada. And it will end up losing a lot of support for the party(ies) that engage in it.

    We need to save the inter-opposition politicking for an election with a lot less riding on it.

  • Well, let’s vote NDP, who as we have seen this past year were the real opposition, unlike libs who just were more interested in their party and political ambitions than actually voting against this govt.

    History is not always kind, and libs were in power in which greenhouse gases grew, and just didn’t get around to do anything, outside of mouth platitudes.

    This party is one where they have no problems talking out of both sides of their mouth.

    That said, Layton and the NDP will CONTINUE to talk and walk the talk, and will be taking on Harper and his neocon crew, as they have done this past year, standing up in parliament and on the campaign trail.

  • As you note, Marc, there are many excellent reasons to oust the BC Liberals, even if the carbon tax isn’t one of them. So I think it’s exaggerating to say it would be a death knell on carbon taxes if they don’t get re-elected.

  • We just have to have faith in our electoral system and trust that, if elected, the BC NDP will break their promise and implement something similar to a carbon tax.

  • The simple fact is that the BC Liberal’s proposed cap and trade system is fundamentally flawed. And this proposal along with every other reason to oust them is valid.

    Cap and trade relies upon a market system to fix the single greatest market failure in man’s history. There is no reason or evidence to suggest that it can or will work.

    I’ll offer an analogy: consider a cap and trade system to deal with murder. Would this be acceptable? Would it work where you allow people to buy credits to kill? However, logically this is what a cap and trade for carbon credits allows. The ultra rich can pollute as much as they wish while buying credits from those who do not have the same “pollution footprint”

    Zero tolerance for carbon emission is the only solution. Crippling carbon taxes must be imposed on emitters unwilling to change. Revenue must be directed to research and development of new energy production which is carbon neutral at worst.

  • Kimball, zero tolerance is an extreme viewpoint, but it admittedly would solve the problem of global warming, if I understand the tone of your suggestion.
    It is a road I’d rather not go down and I trust the boomers that control Canada’s media, RCMP, and other institutions that influenced the last election in favour of S.Harper, will see that they have it pretty sweet; the 55-64 yr old demographic is Canada’s richest. The boomers supporting Harper are presently forgetting their own parents often gave their lives and mental health to make this country in WWII. All the next generation is asking for is paying the societal costs of consumer toys.
    I don’t think younger generations should pay for the healthcare of boomers that exacerbated a problem that could now still be moderately easily solved. The boomers now inherited a world without WWIII and are acting now too greedy to pay it forward to the next generation.
    Under Harper’s environmental platform, Canada cannot impose a tarriff on dirty imports or whatever global GHG arena B.Obama catalyzes (Europe is already there). Under G.Duceppe’s and J.Layton’s, Canada presumably has this positive foreign policy lever. Even further with S.Dion. And of course, the Greens set the bar but could pull a 2000 R.Nader if not careful.
    How does S.Harper’s impotence in this critical foreign policy arena make him a strong leader?! His environment Minister doesn’t even engage on his own portfolio; is scared of losing his own riding. This summer in Parliament we have the dysfunctional P.VanLoan telling the opposition, if they don’t like the government call an election, in response to basic questions about GHG emissions. We have A.D.D. J.Kenney telling people S.Dion’s carbon tax will raise gasoline prices (indirect price effects are tough to figure but it doesn’t directly apply to gas; it should to keep Conservatives honest). He’s telling Canadians chaining ourselves to dinosaur industries will be good for our economic future. Someone tell S.Harper Boomers in this country are fat enough and could use a GHG diet.
    People like Kimball aren’t going to take the degradation of environmental capital quietly, I don’t think.

  • Supporting the BC Liberals and Gordon Campbell because of their Carbon Tax is like supporting an axe murderer because he suggested he would never murder little old ladies. Even though he murdered his own mother.

    “Environmentalists and Environmental Organizations” in British Columbia have gotten caught in Gordon Campbell’s carefully spun web of green wash and spin. Campbell would have us believe he is the one, and the first in North America to realize what dire shape the earth is in. Give us all a break! Can anyone show us any significant Liberal policy that protects our environment.

    The BC NDP certainly took a risk in opposing the Carbon Tax and it now appears to be paying off in the polls. Those who supported the Carbon Tax did nothing to change the polls.

    I seems rather simple, you only have to know which side your bread is buttered on!

  • Comrades,

    Whether any government succeeds or fails on the basis of a “carbon tax” has more to do with the willingness of the public believe the premise that any government can control the weather by means of taxation.

    I mean, hey, it *could* work, right? Personally, I think this is a very progressive scientific theory. Even if it has no effect whatsoever on the climate, it will at least have the desired effect of redistributing the wealth for increased arts funding.

  • It’s hard to have faith in people and in government. Look at the U.S Bush was Booed into the Whitehouse! Is Harper next? These oil and big buisness tycoons are all about the money. Seems money still talks and our environment gets trampled. Cap and trade seems silly…So we just buy the right to pollute? and that makes it ok. The carbon tax proposal is so slack and people are worried about the extra 100$ a year. Maybe more if we just leave our lights on and keep all our appliances going full tilt all day long. What about the costs to our health system as more people become affected by poor air and water and food.
    I say if Harper gets back into power we are all in big trouble and doomed to be even farther behind on the innovation to become environmentally sustainable and in catching up with Europe on reduceing our emmissions. Canada should be at the top of this revolution not laging behind.

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