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Fighting Ottawa’s carbon tax the best defense for New Brunswickers

May 03, 2019
Fighting Ottawa’s carbon tax the best defense for New Brunswickers

This column was published in the New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal on May 3, 2019.

New Brunswick is taking a stand against the carbon tax and Ottawa is punishing the province with a 4.4 cent per litre tax on gasoline, while other Atlantic provinces are going along with Ottawa and getting special deals – for now.

Taking a stand is hard. But the other provinces will have to take stand someday. And as more provinces take stronger stands, the closer Canada is coming to getting rid of the carbon tax.

The resounding defeat of the carbon tax in Alberta’s recent election is a victory. The province will join Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and New Brunswick in fighting Ottawa’s carbon tax in court. That means 50 per cent of the provinces, representing well over half of Canada’s population, are fighting Ottawa’s carbon tax.

Shortly after, another election hammered the carbon tax in Prince Edward Island. Party leaders of the soon-to-be governing Progressive Conservatives, before and during the election, called Ottawa’s carbon tax “punitive” and equated it to picking the pockets of Islanders.

Here at home, the New Brunswick government has officially intervened court challenges of the carbon tax in Ontario and Saskatchewan. Premier Blaine Higgs is watching the outcomes closely with the intent to file the province’s own legal action against the tax.

Yet seeing neighbouring Atlantic provinces be given lower-cost, temporary deals with Ottawa (while New Brunswickers are forced to cough up the full-cost carbon tax) has led some concerned stakeholders to question whether trying to appease Ottawa would be less costly than fighting back.

Here’s why continuing the fight against Ottawa’s carbon tax is the best possible defense for New Brunswick taxpayers. 

First, Higgs campaigned against a carbon tax and he needs to stick to the mandate he received from voters.

Second, carbon taxes by any name are about increasing the cost of life’s necessities. Nova Scotia has a hidden cap-and-trade carbon tax while New Brunswick is paying a direct carbon tax. But both provinces will grapple with high gas prices.

If raising the price of fuel for families is wrong, the goal shouldn’t be to politely ask Ottawa to raise it a little less, the goal should be to stop Ottawa from raising it at all.

The temporary, lower-cost deals struck with Ottawa by Nova Scotia, PEI, and Newfoundland and Labrador are just that: temporary. It’s a mistake to put any faith in such a flimsy federal concession. 

On the contrary, Ottawa has said repeatedly that all provinces will need to meet its carbon tax levels, rising to $50 per tonne (11 cents per litre of gas) by 2022. And it’s a virtual certainty that Ottawa plans to keep raising it after 2022.

It doesn’t matter whether a carbon tax is “made-in-New Brunswick” or not. If we go along with Ottawa, they’ll all cost taxpayers more.

Before it’s eliminated, the made-in-Alberta carbon tax will have drained $2.6 billion from families.

The made-in-British Columbia carbon tax has spiked gas prices to an unbelievable $1.79-per-litre. That’s where Atlantic Canadian gas prices are headed if taxpayers and governments here don’t fight back.

Let’s not forget the former New Brunswick Liberal government already submitted a plan to Ottawa and it was rejected – despite being remarkably similar to the plans from PEI and Newfoundland and Labrador that Ottawa accepted. Similarly, Ottawa rejected Manitoba’s plan, which was nearly identical to the federal carbon tax, but didn’t promise to keep hiking it.

Going along with Ottawa simply isn’t an option because every cent that might be saved now will be charged back in multiples over time.

More importantly, there’s no need to knuckle under to Ottawa as the fight against the carbon tax is gaining strength. A strong stand against the carbon tax now can end it quickly. 

Paige MacPherson is Atlantic Director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.

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