Premier play­ing with tax­pay­ers

Winnipeg Sun - - COMMENT -

Premier Brian Pal­lis­ter ap­pears to be look­ing for any way pos­si­ble to im­pose a car­bon tax on Man­i­to­bans while try­ing to min­i­mize the po­lit­i­cal price he’ll pay for do­ing so.

That’s largely what’s be­hind his de­ci­sion to seek le­gal ad­vice on whether the fed­eral govern­ment is con­sti­tu­tion­ally au­tho­rized to im­pose a car­bon tax of its own on prov­inces who don’t meet Ottawa’s min­i­mum stan­dard on emis­sions pric­ing.

It was clear all along that ei­ther the fed­eral govern­ment or any prov­ince can levy a car­bon tax. That was never in ques­tion. Both lev­els of govern­ment clearly have tax­a­tion pow­ers un­der the Con­sti­tu­tion. The de­ci­sion to seek le­gal ad­vice on that was an at­tempt to draw at­ten­tion away from the real is­sue at hand: the fact the Pal­lis­ter govern­ment wants to bring in a new tax of its own while try­ing to con­vince Man­i­to­bans it was forced to do so by the fed­eral Lib­eral govern­ment.

Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau has said that all prov­inces must have a car­bon pric­ing scheme by 2018 or Ottawa will im­pose its own on any prov­ince that doesn’t com­ply. But that’s a threat prov­inces should be push­ing back on, if they be­lieve Cana­di­ans are al­ready over­taxed and that a car­bon tax will do noth­ing to re­duce emis­sions.

Un­for­tu­nately, in­stead of push­ing back on that threat to tax­pay­ers, Pal­lis­ter is look­ing for ways to com­ply by ar­gu­ing there’s some kind of “made-in-Man­i­toba” car­bon tax that would be more palat­able to tax­pay­ers here. There isn’t. A tax is a tax is a tax. And Man­i­to­bans al­ready hand over far too much of their hard-earned money to gov­ern­ments at all lev­els. Pal­lis­ter says he rec­og­nizes that fact, but he still ap­pears hell-bent on go­ing ahead with a car­bon tax any­way.

In other words, he pays lip ser­vice to the plight of over-taxed Man­i­to­bans but he doesn’t fol­low that up with ac­tion.

In the end, if Pal­lis­ter gets his way, Man­i­to­bans could be pay­ing yet an­other new tax, all be­cause Canada’s mis­guided prime min­is­ter has made some veiled threats about im­pos­ing a tax of his own.

There are le­git­i­mate, prac­ti­cal ways of re­duc­ing green­house gas emis­sions, in­clud­ing through in­no­va­tion, tech­nol­ogy, reg­u­la­tion and con­ser­va­tion. Putting a tax on fuel like gaso­line and nat­u­ral gas, which has had lit­tle to no ef­fect on emis­sions in other ju­ris­dic­tions — in­clud­ing in Bri­tish Columbia — is not one of them. It’s sim­ply a way for govern­ment to cre­ate a new rev­enue stream, which Pal­lis­ter should be re­ject­ing, not pro­mot­ing.

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