Happy Birthday, Carbon Tax!

A year ago, in the 2008 BC Budget, a new tax was born. There was a hush over the House as its mother, the Finance Minister, prepared for delivery. The proud papa, the Premier, stood glowingly beside the new mom Carole and her baby tax, and basked in the glow of praise from climate scientists, environmentalists and policy wonks from across the globe. She was small, they said, but would grow strong in time. She was stunningly revenue neutral, giving back to her people through income tax cuts and credits. She was the jewel of the family climate action plan.

Those happy days soon came to an end, and the new carbon tax had quite a difficult time. People misunderstood her and called her nasty names. They said she hurt poor families, and that she was unfair to people who lived in the country. Some said she was just a gas tax, and wanted to kill her off. Some said she couldn’t do anything, but then she got blamed when gas prices went sky high. When the Prime Minister, a cruel man, came to town he said she was not even revenue neutral.

Beseiged by critics, the new parents were torn apart. The carbon tax’s mother left the House, and was last seen working for that mean Prime Minister, looking after his taxes with a bunch of billionaires. The father got scared of his new tax’s strange power to make him lose support in swing ridings, and stopped talking about his new baby. Later, he lost interest in his whole family of climate actions, and packed them off to live at the Ministry of the Environment, then he cut that sad ministry’s budget.

Abandoned by her mother, neglected by her father, the carbon tax soon came to live with her wicked uncle, the new Finance Minister. Uncle Colin had his own children, especially his favourite, Tilma, who everybody loved because she looked good, even though she really did not do very much at all. And now Uncle Colin had to take care of all of those other taxes, too. Poor little carbon tax was alone and scared beside all those bigger and older taxes.

And so the carbon tax turned one. Uncle Colin barely even gave her a present, and would not let her low-income credit grow. He would not let any of her revenues be used to build new transit to help people. She did not want to hurt working families, she only wanted to help clean up the planet. But now she knew that she would hurt them, and most of her revenues went to people who did not even need the help. And yet she was still too small to make them change their ways.

Happy birthday, carbon tax! A year ago, when she was born, her life was so full of promise. But now she wonders if it was all just a fairy tale.


  • Well done.

    Just last night at bedtime I told my daughter the story of the fish that climbed out of the ocean, and had babies that were lizards, and so on until a monkey had babies that were people. Strangely, it sounded like a fanciful creation myth. I better watch it or she will accuse me of making things up.

  • Mother Nature is cooling off global warming as we speak by slowing down the economy. The economy will naturally maintain temperature balance on its own, just hope your not on the wrong side of the scale.

  • Very nice presentation!

    I think any ‘carbon price’ through carbon tax or cap and trade needs to be coupled with vision and policy that ensure forms of economic security.

    Giving people opportunities to ‘escape’ from the carbon price through efficiency programs and sustainable transportation as well as ‘just transitions’ for workers.

    I wonder if it is a coincidence that carbon taxes have tended to be implemented most aggressively in countries with well developed welfare states in Europe.

    So to go along with your story. It is too bad the carbon tax wasn’t a twin birth – carbon tax and reinvigorated welfare state programs – a ‘green welfare state’.

    I recently wrote a first cut at a paper trying to use a Karl Polanyian framework to analyze the last federal election.

    It is too bad we don’t seem to be seeing a progressive ‘Green New Deal’/’Green welfare state’ agenda going up against ‘let the market solve the problem’ carbon price policies. Instead it is anti-tax propaganda and rhetoric coming from the left.

  • i hope carbon tax will have a better birthday next year =). I think she’ll grow up a fine lady…. as long as her uncle’s “family” doesn’t get wiped out by the end of the year.

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