Former finance minister Carole Taylor shows her green budget shoes the day before introducing B.C.’s carbon tax, February 2008. (Tom Fletcher/Black Press)

B.C. VIEWS: Canada’s carbon tax house of cards is falling down

Revealed as just another sales tax, it’s doomed in B.C. and nationally

If you filled up at the Shell station on Sumas Way in Abbotsford last week, you paid $1.38 per litre of regular gasoline. The Husky station on Quadra Street in Victoria was charging $1.44, the same price as in 100 Mile House, and a penny a litre more than in Cranbrook.

In Langley, Surrey and other locations within the Metro Vancouver transit tax area, prices were as high as $1.47. That’s drifting towards the all-time North American record set in Metro Vancouver this past April, where $1.62 per litre beat the record set in Los Angeles in 2008.

April 1 was the date of the latest increase in B.C.’s carbon tax on fuels, already the highest in Canada. It now sits at $35 per tonne of carbon dioxide emissions. That’s about 8.5 cents per litre of gasoline or 10 cents for diesel, once you add the GST that is charged on top of it in the Canadian tradition. To fill up a full-sized pickup truck, it’s an extra $10 or so for carbon tax.

When then-premier Gordon Campbell introduced the B.C. carbon tax in 2008, I argued in favour of it. It promotes more efficient vehicles, higher-density communities with more walking and cycling that our couch-potato culture desperately needs, and most significantly, it was “revenue neutral.”

What that meant was that personal and business income taxes were reduced to return carbon tax revenue, along with low-income and rural rebates. Campbell’s government even mailed everyone a nice cheque to help the medicine go down.

A few hard lessons have been learned since those early days of “fighting climate change” through taxation. The first is that it hasn’t worked.

B.C.’s greenhouse gas emissions went down for a couple of years due to a destructive global recession that among other things, forced Canadian and U.S. governments to briefly nationalize auto companies. Emissions have been rising since, and will continue unless the B.C. economy hits another wall.

Revenue neutrality has also gone the way of the Edsel. Premier John Horgan scrapped that, claiming to divert revenues towards vaguely defined efficiency projects. One is new transit lines in Surrey and Vancouver, announced by the previous federal government in 2015 and re-announced last week by Horgan and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Another sham: in May, the B.C. government announced $1.5 million to help my alma mater Langara College “reduce its carbon footprint.” The money is to replace worn-out ventilation fans. That’s right, old electric motors that run on carbon-free hydro power are replaced with new ones. If you believe that’s “fighting climate change,” I’ve got some toxic, overpriced fluorescent light bulbs you might like.

B.C.’s carbon tax is now just another sales tax, on top of the PST. Same goes for Alberta, where Premier Rachel Notley angrily announced that she’s pulling out of Trudeau’s national carbon tax over the Trans Mountain pipeline mess.

Trudeau’s edict would bring the rest of the country up to B.C.’s tax level and beyond, to $50 a tonne. But it will be “revenue neutral” to Ottawa, meaning the money will go back to provinces even if Ottawa collects it for them.

“See you in court,” said Saskatchewan, since joined by Doug Ford’s Ontario, and likely other provinces.

The notion that British Columbia, and for that matter Canada, can alter planetary weather with deceptive tax measures, while the U.S., China, India, Australia and others bow out, is not just sick. It’s dying.

Tom Fletcher is B.C. legislature reporter and columnist for Black Press. Email: tfletcher@blackpress.ca


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Tour company plans shuttle service to Kelowna for stranded travellers

SMT Kootenay wants to help travellers get in and out of ‘Cancelgar’ in winter months

Josie Hotel will be ready on opening day, says management

West Kootenay’s first ski-in, ski-out boutique hotel to open this month

Castlegar pastors find life in wheelchair a challenge

The men found the obstacles were both physical and mental.

Castlegar’s Waterline property purchased; owners to protect it for rock climbers

New owners plan to subdivide, sell bluffs to recreational climbing group

Rossland council’s first meeting sets appointments

Councillors assigned to sit on boards, committees on major city issues

Josie Hotel will be ready on opening day, says management

West Kootenay’s first ski-in, ski-out boutique hotel to open this month

B.C. teacher’s Amazing Race takes students on Canada-wide adventure

Agassiz high school students say they had the experience of a life time

Don’t sign USMCA until LGBTQ language excised, U.S. lawmakers urge Trump

The trade agreement, forged after 13 months of tense negotiations between Canada and the U.S. is scheduled for Nov. 30

US official: US intel says prince ordered Khashoggi killing

Vice-President Mike Pence told reporters that ‘the murder of Jamal Khashoggi was an atrocity.’

Canada’s health system commendable overall but barriers to care remain: UN

The United Nations says Canada’s health care system is “commendable” overall but vulnerable groups still face barriers to quality care.

Unique technology gives children with special needs more independent play

UVic’s CanAssist refined seven prototypes aided by $1.5M government contribution

Kelly Ellard’s boyfriend has statutory release revoked

Darwin Duane Dorozan had several parole infractions that found him ‘unmanageable’

Doctor’s note shouldn’t be required to prove you’re sick: poll

70% of Canadians oppose allowing employers to make you get a sick note

Most Read