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Don’t appease Ottawa, just fight the carbon tax

November 30, 2018
Don’t appease Ottawa, just fight the carbon tax

This column was published in the Telegraph-Journal on November 30, 2018.

Premier Blaine Higgs is tackling the carbon tax issue with both hands. The problem is, he’s fighting with one hand, but he’s complying with the other.

Higgs is sticking to his campaign commitment to join the provincial court battle against Ottawa’s carbon tax. For that, he deserves praise.

Ottawa’s carbon tax is unfair, it’s unevenly applied, and a growing list of provinces are challenging it. That’s strengthening the case against the carbon tax both politically and legally.

But, unlike the other provinces fighting the tax in court, Higgs is also cooking up a “backup plan” to submit to the federal government. And that sounds like it could cost taxpayers.

The new Progressive Conservative government’s Throne Speech stated the province would “develop an alternative to the federal government’s bureaucratic, expensive carbon tax.”

The day after he became premier, following the election he characterized as a “referendum on the carbon tax,” Higgs told media he would meet with federal government officials to hear their carbon tax presentation.

That doesn’t bode well for strengthening the province’s opposition to the tax. Nor does crafting an alternative plan, which is exactly what Ottawa is demanding from the provinces.

He said that his plan won’t involve a new tax, but every such plan we’ve seen so far – whether it’s direct carbon taxes or cap-and-trade, spent on green corporate welfare or rebates – has come with increased costs for taxpayers.

It doesn’t matter if the government is taking money out of your left pocket or your right; any plan designed to appease Ottawa inevitably costs Canadians.

During the election, Higgs promised to refund any money taken by Ottawa’s carbon tax by cutting taxes. At best, that could serve as a temporary stop-gap measure while he fights the federal carbon tax.

But any new plan that increases costs rather than reducing them should be avoided.

The Letter from the Leader in the PC platform promised the carbon tax wouldn’t cost New Brunswickers money.

Yet it’s hard to imagine a plan that Ottawa would accept that doesn’t cost New Brunswickers money.

“I’m not suggesting that we’ll comply because I’m not optimistic that we’ll be able to,” Higgs said in reference to Ottawa’s demand that carbon taxes rise from $20-per-tonne to $50-per-tonne by 2022. In fact, federal arguments submitted in the court case stated that the carbon tax will be applied with “increasing stringency over time.”

Higgs seems to argue that imposing a New Brunswick carbon plan will mitigate the pain felt by taxpayers in the province. But he admits his back up plan probably won’t comply with Ottawa’s dictates. In fact, Ottawa may even reject any innovative plan from New Brunswick just like it rejected Manitoba’s carbon tax after that province refused to hike the carbon tax indefinitely.

Even if federal officials do accept the plan, they won’t be satisfied unless New Brunswickers are paying more.

If Higgs is against the carbon tax, he shouldn’t appease Ottawa by making life more difficult for New Brunswickers.

He should fight the carbon tax. Full stop.

Paige MacPherson is Atlantic Director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.


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