Ot­tawa owes Sask. gov’t an­swers on car­bon taxes

Prairie Post (West Edition) - - Opinion - TODD MACKAY Todd Mackay is with the Cana­dian Tax­pay­ers Fed­er­a­tion (CTF). 'Let's Talk Taxes' is a free opin­ion ed­i­to­rial pro­vided ev­ery two weeks to me­dia out­lets and opin­ion lead­ers by the CTF

Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau has sub­mit­ted his car­bon tax ar­gu­ments to both the Saskatchewan court of pub­lic opin­ion and the Saskatchewan Court of Ap­peal, but both raise ques­tions.

How will car­bon taxes leave Saskatchewa­ni­ans with more money?

The fed­eral gov­ern­ment es­ti­mates Saskatchewan fam­i­lies will get $598 in car­bon tax re­bates while pay­ing $403 in car­bon taxes.

That doesn’t count GST charges or ad­min­is­tra­tive costs. But Ot­tawa hopes some of us will be happy with a cou­ple of hun­dred bucks.

Should we be happy? That money is com­ing from tax­pay­ers, or, more specif­i­cally, from some tax­pay­ers. For ex­am­ple, those who can bike to work or spend their days in front of lap­tops may come out ahead by twenty dol­lars a month, but that re­bate money is com­ing from our neigh­bours who spend their work­days us­ing half-tonnes to pick up dry­wall and semis to haul grain. Some may gain a lit­tle, but over­all, we’ll have less.

How will this equa­tion work out over time?

Bri­tish Columbia ini­tially claimed its car­bon tax would be rev­enue neu­tral, but it ac­tu­ally cost tax­pay­ers hun­dreds of mil­lions and now it makes no pre­tence of off­set­ting the cost.

Con­flict­ing in­for­ma­tion is al­ready un­der­min­ing Ot­tawa’s cred­i­bil­ity.

Fed­eral De­part­ment of Fi­nance doc­u­ments show the car­bon tax will cost Saskatchewan $310 mil­lion next year and jump up to $765 mil­lion in four years. The next year after that the chart shows the car­bon tax will cost $765 mil­lion again. But that’s not true. In its court doc­u­ments, Ot­tawa states a car­bon tax will be ap­plied with “in­creas­ing strin­gency over time.” The car­bon tax won’t even­tu­ally level off. There’s a clear con­tra­dic­tion be­tween the fi­nance charts and the le­gal ar­gu­ments.

In re­al­ity, it seems re­bates are for re­elec­tion, but taxes rise for­ever.

More ques­tions arise. En­vi­ron­ment Min­is­ter Cather­ine McKenna in­sists “pol­lut­ing isn’t free,” but how does she set a fair price?

Fam­i­lies will pay $20 per tonne of car­bon for tak­ing kids to school and heat­ing the house. That price will soon rise to $50 per tonne. Yet, big emit­ters will get a sep­a­rate sys­tem and CBC re­ports that a coal-fired power plant in New Brunswick will pay $1 per tonne. Why will ev­ery puff from the hatch­back tailpipe cost a fam­ily 20 times the price paid for bil­low­ing coal smoke?

Here’s an­other ques­tion: does the car­bon tax work in the global con­text?

In its le­gal ar­gu­ments, Ot­tawa says ev­ery prov­ince must have a car­bon tax be­cause oth­er­wise “emit­ting in­dus­tries trans­fer pro­duc­tion from a ju­ris­dic­tion with a car­bon price to a ju­ris­dic­tion that does not price car­bon.” Log­i­cally, it seems, Ot­tawa knows a car­bon tax can’t work un­less it reaches in­ter­na­tion­ally.

Ot­tawa’s le­gal ar­gu­ment re­peat­edly ref­er­ences Europe but doesn’t even men­tion the United States. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump has re­jected a car­bon tax as did his elec­tion ri­val Hil­lary Clin­ton. Wash­ing­ton State has re­jected a car­bon tax in a ref­er­en­dum – twice. Ac­cord­ing to Ot­tawa’s logic, if one prov­ince’s re­jec­tion of a car­bon tax would make it un­work­able, how could it suc­ceed in the shadow of the US?

Lastly, is the car­bon tax work­ing in BC?

Ot­tawa is em­phatic in its le­gal ar­gu­ments.

“Since 2005, Bri­tish Columbia’s GHG emis­sions have de­creased by 5.1 per cent,” it states.

But judges and vot­ers will con­sider these num­bers as well. BC pro­duced 60.7 Mt of emis­sions in 2010 and 63.3 Mt in 2015, ac­cord­ing to the prov­ince’s most re­cent GHG Emis­sions Sum­mary. The same sum­mary shows ve­hi­cle emis­sions rose 11.6 per cent dur­ing the same pe­riod. Statis­tics Canada shows that trend con­tin­u­ing as BC’s net gaso­line sales rose from 41.4 mil­lion litres in 2013 to 43.6 mil­lion litres in 2017.

The Sierra Club ren­dered its judge­ment in a re­lease en­ti­tled: “BC’s green­house gas emis­sions have risen in four of the last five years.”

The prime min­is­ter owes Saskatchewa­ni­ans more than a few hun­dred bucks taken from our neigh­bours. He owes us sub­stan­tial an­swers to se­ri­ous ques­tions.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.