Car­bon com­pro­mise

Valley Journal Advertiser - - OPINION -

It’s a good thing when At­lantic Cana­di­ans can re­duce their car­bon foot­print with­out ma­jor in­creases in fuel taxes and other en­ergy costs. But it seems to be a prob­lem for some crit­ics, who feel that pock­et­book pain is nec­es­sary to deal with the grow­ing cli­mate change cri­sis.

The fed­eral plan to fight green­house gas emis­sions was un­veiled this week. The dreaded car­bon tax has been re­placed by a “price on pol­lu­tion,” a more palat­able term for wor­ried Cana­di­ans.

Ot­tawa’s car­bon pro­pos­als come on the heels of a chill­ing In­ter­gov­ern­men­tal Panel on Cli­mate Change re­port this month which sug­gests planet Earth is in a much more pre­car­i­ous po­si­tion than was ever be­lieved.

The fed­eral govern­ment largely ac­cepted com­pro­mises of­fered by three At­lantic prov­inces to achieve car­bon re­duc­tion, thus al­low­ing the re­gion to avoid hefty in­creases at the pump. New Brunswick held out, join­ing On­tario, Saskatchewan and Man­i­toba as prov­inces that de­clined to of­fer car­bon plans. They now face the full brunt of an Ot­tawa-im­posed car­bon tax and a fed­er­ally ad­min­is­tered re­bate pro­gram.

Wisely, New­found­land and Labrador, Prince Ed­ward Is­land and Nova Sco­tia came up with made-in-At­lantic Canada so­lu­tions. Swayed by re­gional con­cerns, Ot­tawa was will­ing to com­pro­mise, and kept fuel hikes to a min­i­mum. The three prov­inces took steps to re­duce the im­pact of Ot­tawa’s tax hikes at the pumps, and the end re­sult largely keeps the sta­tus quo, much to the re­lief of con­sumers and busi­nesses.

Ot­tawa ac­cepted the N.L. plan which sees the prov­ince re­peal a tem­po­rary four cents per litre (cpl) gas tax, re­placed with a 4.42 cpl car­bon tax. The av­er­age con­sumer will see a slight in­crease in pump costs while many in­dus­tries are ex­empt. Home heat­ing won’t be taxed. Ot­tawa agreed with N.L.’s ar­gu­ment that the cost of Muskrat Falls is too large for tax­pay­ers to han­dle an­other tax hike.

In Nova Sco­tia, Ot­tawa ac­cepted the prov­ince’s cap-and-trade so­lu­tion, meant to keep ma­jor in­dus­tries in the prov­ince and cit­i­zens em­ployed, and avoids an 11-cent tax hike at the pumps. So in­stead of fed­eral re­bates and higher taxes, N.S. will get cash to fund green en­ergy pro­grams, pay for adap­tion to cli­mate change and help clean en­ergy star­tups.

P.E.I. hoped its plan of in­cen­tives and re­bates would pre­vent the fed­eral govern­ment from im­pos­ing a car­bon tax. It largely worked, although Ot­tawa in­sisted on a four cpl hike on gas and diesel. The prov­ince re­duced its ex­cise tax by three cents, an over­all mi­nor in­crease Is­landers can live with. Heat­ing oil is ex­empted.

Some crit­ics feel that the big­ger the change in price, the big­ger the change in be­hav­iour, and that Ot­tawa’s plan falls far short of the ag­gres­sive poli­cies re­quired to achieve cli­mate change goals.

The fed­eral car­bon plan has rat­tled the Op­po­si­tion, which claim it’s a cam­paign gim­mick. If that’s the case, Ot­tawa seems to struck the right note with Cana­di­ans.

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