Fed­eral Lib­er­als are fight­ing the cli­mate change issue one re­frig­er­a­tor sub­sidy at a time

Prairie Post (East Edition) - - Opinion - BY AARON WUDRICK

If a fam­ily has to buy a new re­frig­er­a­tor be­cause the car­bon tax makes the power bill more ex­pen­sive, that’s success in Ottawa’s view, even if it’s tough for that fam­ily. But the rules are dif­fer­ent for big busi­ness. On Apr. 1, the fed­eral car­bon tax kicked in in Man­i­toba, New Brunswick, On­tario and Saskatchew­an.

The tax will add 4.4 cents per litre to the price of gaso­line – ris­ing to 11 cents by 2022 – and drive up the cost of ev­ery­thing from home heat­ing to gro­ceries. The ra­tio­nale, the fed­eral gov­ern­ment says, is to in­cen­tivize be­havioural changes by making prices higher, since it hopes you won’t be able to buy as much gas and thus you’ll drive less. Be­sides, with a plan to re­bate the money via a tax credit, it in­sists you won’t ac­tu­ally be out of pocket. In fact, the politi­cians prom­ise you’ll ac­tu­ally be bet­ter off!

Ig­nore that fact that many essential goods – and es­pe­cially the use of energy sources such as gaso­line - are known as in­elas­tic goods be­cause de­mand re­mains rel­a­tively con­stant despite price changes. In other words, Cana­di­ans still need to drive to work and drop their kids off at school even if Ottawa pushes up the price at the pump. British Co­lum­bia has proven this point as its emis­sions are still ris­ing, despite its car­bon tax. And never mind that the Trudeau car­bon tax is set at level far too low to get Canada any­where near its own emis­sions targets, de­feat­ing the en­tire pur­pose of the tax.

A bet­ter question, high­lighted by an an­nounce­ment made by En­vi­ron­ment Min­is­ter Catherine McKenna, is why the gov­ern­ment’s in­ge­nious plan to tax Cana­di­ans into pros­per­ity doesn’t also ap­ply to Canada’s wealthiest cor­po­ra­tions? McKenna’s big re­veal was that her gov­ern­ment is giv­ing a $12

mil­lion tax­payer hand­out to Loblaw so that the com­pany could up­grade the re­frig­er­a­tors in its stores, all in the name of help­ing fight cli­mate change.

It would have been hard for McKenna to pick a less sym­pa­thetic re­cip­i­ent. Owned by one of Canada’s richest families, and re­cently em­broiled in con­tro­ver­sies over tax eva­sion and a bread price-fix­ing scheme, Loblaw turned a tidy profit of more than $800 mil­lion last year.Which brings us to an ob­vi­ous question: if a new car­bon tax is the best way to get Cana­di­ans to cut their car­bon emis­sions, why does Loblaw get a sub­sidy in­stead? While gro­cery stores will pass on their car­bon tax costs to con­sumers, they’re now cash­ing cor­po­rate wel­fare cheques from Ottawa. It’s al­most as if the gov­ern­ment is ad­mit­ting that when it comes to busi­nesses, pil­ing on new costs is harm­ful. And yet it expects us to believe the op­po­site when it comes to Cana­di­ans try­ing to stretch their fam­ily bud­gets. For a gov­ern­ment that says it’s fo­cused on the mid­dle class, it has been un­be­liev­ably gen­er­ous with large, mostly prof­itable cor­po­ra­tions, with hand­outs to Bom­bardier and Toy­ota, not to men­tion its seedy sub­servience to the now-in­fa­mous SNC-Lavalin that sparked an un­end­ing scan­dal.

The Trudeau gov­ern­ment was al­ready hav­ing a tough time con­vinc­ing skep­ti­cal Cana­di­ans the car­bon tax would ac­tu­ally make them bet­ter off, rather than cost­ing them money, while do­ing noth­ing to help the en­vi­ron­ment.

Now the gov­ern­ment has piled on an ad­di­tional con­tra­dic­tion.

Ottawa is us­ing the car­bon tax to pres­sure mid­dle-class families into buy­ing new fridges, but, if it’s one of Canada’s wealthiest families flanked by a flock of lob­by­ists, Ottawa is all to happy chip in mil­lions from tax­pay­ers for new cool­ers.

Aaron Wudrick is the Fed­eral Director of the Canadian Tax­pay­ers Fed­er­a­tion

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