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

It’s here: tackling opioid addiction in Ladysmith

Nine overdose deaths in two years “pretty alarming considering this is a small town”

Spending support helps keep Chemainus Rotary auction going strong

Event a labour of love for club members to generate funds for the community

Robert Barron column: Break-ins violate more than your property

My home has been broken into twice in the decade that I have lived there.

Switchbacks ease Holland Creek trail climb

New path section near the footbridge makes the link to Heart Lake more accessible

Nelson finds her calling as Chemainus’ community paramedic

Switching careers from instrument repair music to her ears

UPDATE: Four victims identified in deadly Penticton shooting spree

John Brittain, 68, faces three counts of first-degree murder and one count of second-degree murder

Answers for your Ladysmith home-buying questions

VIREB Real Estate Consumer Conference has lots of information for buyers and sellers

Prince George sweeps to first-ever BC Hockey League crown

Spruce Kings beat Vernon Vipers 3-1 in the Okanagan Wednesday for 13th straight playoff win

Hwang’s first MLS goal lifts Whitecaps to 1-0 win over LAFC

Vancouver picks up first victory of season

Child-proof your windows ahead of warm weather: B.C. expert

Fifteen children were taken to BC Children’s Hospital for falls in 2018

B.C. trucker pleads guilty to lesser charges in fatal Manitoba crash

Gurjant Singh was fined $3,000 and given a one-year driving prohibition.

Study links preschool screen time to behavioural and attention problems

The research looked at more than 2,400 families

Island man guilty of child porn charges, Crown alleges 250,000 images

Psychiatric assessment requested by Crown, sentencing to be set June 4 in Nanaimo court

More than $100,000 raised for family of professional skier who died near Pemberton

Dave Treadway leaves behind his pregnant wife and two young boys

Most Read