CAP AND TRADE ANOTHER TARGET FOR WYNNE RIVALS
KATHLEEN WYNNE HAS DRIVEN up electricity prices to record levels, sold out the public interest on the hydro file, abetted rampant scandalous corruption and topped it off with a useless money grab in the form of cap-and-trade schemes. Expect that to be downplayed by the Liberals as we head into a provincial election.
The opposition parties will want to run that up the flagpole, the Tories touting consumer-friendly fixes, the NDP pitching a mix of the status quo and some union-friendly changes.
Wynne’s critics, who are many, got yet another piece of ammunition this week when Ontario’s Environmental Commissioner released a report noting the province will fall short of its greenhouse gas emission targets despite all the hype ... and the cash grab.
Dianne Saxe did acknowledge the environmental benefits of phasing out coal-fired plants, but didn’t get into the failures of the process, as outlined by other governmental watchdogs, such as the auditor general and financial accountability officer. Their reviews of Wynne’s handling of the hydro file and the entire provincial budget have routinely fallen somewhere between damning and scathing.
The Progressive Conservatives plan to undo the ill-considered cap-and-trade plan – a similar debate is ongoing in Alberta – may get some play, as Ontarians know little about it, see it as a money grab and studies show it to be basically useless except to fill government coffers.
Cap-and-trade is a weak way to curb emissions. It’s wide open to abuse. A direct carbon tax, applied to everything, makes more sense in this context. The bigger problem? Ontarians don’t trust Wynne to do what’s right given a record of corruption and incompetence.
A couple of years in, that’s proven to be a pretty safe assumption.
Critics have noted the complex cap-and-trade scheme simply make it look like emissions are going lower without actually doing much environmental good. At the end of the day, the main beneficiary is the provincial treasury.
A straightforward carbon tax helps ensure the polluters (which is all of us, to varying degrees) pay for their impact on the environment. Greenhouse gas emissions have always simply been externalities – transferring to society the costs of production while the profits go to individuals and companies – but if we’re going to change the system, we’re going to have to take aim at that practice. In this case, perhaps all the money from a carbon tax should go into a contingency fund to cover the growing expenses attributed to climate change. That fund should be out of the direct control of the government. Simply deposited into provincial coffers, it will be misspent, stolen and wasted on expenditures of no public value.
The more broadly applied, the more effective the tax. It serves little purpose to exempt the largest polluters if you want to reduce emissions. If you simply want window dressing, however ...
An effective policy – i.e. real attempt at reducing emissions through tax measures – would be removed from political tampering. Instead, we’re to get just the opposite. So, along with the tampering, we’re sure to get the same kind of ineffectiveness and corruption that have become the norm.