Our car­bon em­per­ors are wear­ing no clothes

The Sun Times (Owen Sound) - - OPINION -

As polling across Canada shows sup­port for car­bon pric­ing plum­met­ing now that it’s a re­al­ity as op­posed to an idea, Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau must be won­der­ing what went wrong.

Ditto On­tario Premier Kath­leen Wynne.

Last year, with great self­con­grat­u­la­tory fan­fare, she im­posed a cap-and-trade scheme, an­other name for a car­bon tax, on On­tar­i­ans. That’s one rea­son she’s poised to lose her job in the prov­ince’s June 7 elec­tion, her Lib­eral gov­ern­ment trail­ing both the Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tives and NDP in the polls.

An Ip­sos/Global poll re­leased Mon­day found more than seven in 10 el­i­gi­ble On­tario vot­ers — 72 per cent — be­lieve car­bon taxes are just an ex­cuse by gov­ern­ment to grab more money from them, with 68 per cent calling them mere sym­bol­ism.

A sim­i­lar fate ap­pears to await Al­berta Premier Rachel Not­ley, whose NDP gov­ern­ment in­tro­duced a car­bon tax last year and is now trail­ing far be­hind Ja­son Ken­ney’s United Con­ser­va­tive Party in pub­lic sup­port.

A poll re­leased last month by Janet Brown Opin­ion Re­search and Trend Re­search for the CBC, found al­most seven in 10 Al­ber­tans sur­veyed — 66 per cent — want Not­ley’s car­bon tax scrapped.

An An­gus Reid In­sti­tute poll re­leased in July 2017 found most Cana­di­ans — 56 per cent — op­pose Trudeau’s na­tional car­bon price, with ma­jori­ties against it in ev­ery prov­ince sur­veyed ex­cept Que­bec, (55 per cent sup­port) and B.C. (50 per cent sup­port).

Mean­while, 59 per cent were op­posed in On­tario; 68 per cent op­posed in Al­berta; 71 per cent op­posed in Saskatchewan; 60 per cent op­posed in Man­i­toba; 67 per cent op­posed in New Brunswick; 62 per cent op­posed in New­found­land and Labrador, and 57 per cent op­posed in Nova Sco­tia.

It’s all ev­i­dence of grow­ing skep­ti­cism about car­bon pric­ing as Cana­di­ans in­creas­ingly re­al­ize that when Trudeau and Co. talk about “mak­ing pol­luters pay” for car­bon emis­sions, they re­ally mean mak­ing us pay.

Hav­ing fol­lowed polling on car­bon pric­ing and cli­mate change for more than a decade, my rule of thumb is this: Ask peo­ple if they sup­port efforts to com­bat man-made cli­mate change and most say yes. Ask them if they sup­port hav­ing to pay for it, and most say no.

While the Cana­dian in­tel­li­gentsia mock the pub­lic for hold­ing these seem­ingly con­tra­dic­tory views, the re­al­ity is the pub­lic’s skep­ti­cism about car­bon pric­ing is jus­ti­fied.

That’s be­cause no gov­ern­ment in Canada has in­sti­tuted the most ef­fec­tive, open and trans­par­ent form of car­bon pric­ing — a 100 per cent, rev­enue-neu­tral car­bon tax in which all the money is re­turned to the pub­lic in broad-based in­come tax cuts — ver­i­fied by the fed­eral and pro­vin­cial au­di­tors gen­eral.

The rea­son no gov­ern­ment in Canada is do­ing this is that no gov­ern­ment in Canada wants to re­duce in­dus­trial car­bon diox­ide emis­sions linked to cli­mate change in the most ef­fec­tive way pos­si­ble, which has noth­ing to do with rais­ing gov­ern­ment rev­enues.

The fact is that to sig­nif­i­cantly re­duce emis­sions, car­bon taxes would have to be set so high to­day

(hun­dreds of dol­lars per tonne of emis­sions, as op­posed to Trudeau’s price of $50 per tonne by 2022) that, with­out rev­enue neu­tral­ity, the only rea­son emis­sions would drop would be due to a mas­sive na­tional re­ces­sion.

So in­stead, what Trudeau and Co. are do­ing, is to nickel-and-dime Cana­di­ans to death through car­bon pric­ing, putting a per­ma­nent drag on our econ­omy with­out pro­vok­ing a full re­ces­sion, while hop­ing Cana­di­ans won’t no­tice as the costs in­crease over time, with lit­tle im­pact on emis­sions.

What the polling on car­bon taxes shows is that Cana­di­ans are com­ing to the cor­rect con­clu­sion that our car­bon em­per­ors have no clothes. lgo­ld­stein@post­media.com

LOR­RIE GOLD­STEIN

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