First published in The Province Newspaper on November 27th, 2018
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau hails British Columbia’s carbon tax as a success. It’s not. It’s a warning, and the rest of Canada needs to learn from the West Coast’s mistake.
He’s right about the tax part: the B.C. carbon tax has successfully taken billions of dollars out of our wallets for the sins of driving to work, buying groceries and heating our homes. If, however, carbon taxes are supposed to do things such as reducing carbon dioxide emissions and stopping climate change, it’s been a lot less successful.
B.C.’s carbon tax costs ordinary people a lot of money — and it doesn’t work.
“B.C.’s latest emissions data mark years of failure to reduce emissions by more than a token amount,” said Sierra Club in January 2018. “Ten years after the previous government legislated the target to reduce emissions by 33 per cent from 2007 levels by 2020 we are essentially in the same place we started.”
The B.C. carbon tax started at $10 per tonne back in 2008, with the government promising to stop it at $30 per tonne. Guess what? It’s $35 per tonne now, and the government is promising to jack it up to $50 per tonne by 2021.
Taxpayers in the rest of Canada shouldn’t be tricked the way British Columbians were tricked. Calling the carbon tax “revenue neutral” and bribing taxpayers with their own money via rebate cheques is just a ploy.
Here’s how the carbon tax trick works.
In 2016-17, the B.C. government took in $1.2 billion from the carbon tax. To call it “revenue neutral” the government add up random, often pre-existing, tax credits — everything from film tax credits to fitness tax credits — to make it “balance out to zero.” That’s all that term meant. Taking more than a billion dollars from people — most of them commuting to work — and ghosting it into “tax credits” for things such as the filming of Deadpool and Skyscraper in downtown Vancouver is unfair, and it’s not saving the planet.
Warning to the rest of Canada: B.C. already has the highest carbon tax in the land and the government is promising to jack it up forever. The B.C. carbon tax adds $10 to the cost of filling up a pick-up truck and $45 extra to the cost of filling up a diesel tank on a transport truck. Those trucks deliver everything we use and eat, so a carbon tax is a tax on everything because it makes everything more expensive. The NDP-Green government has dropped the term “revenue neutral” in B.C. and they have removed the rule to require reporting on its carbon tax spending in future budgets. The B.C. carbon tax on natural gas now costs more than the actual gas.
But B.C. is just the starting point and Trudeau is drawing international inspiration for the carbon tax he is inflicting on unwilling provinces.
“The world’s leading scientists told us a few weeks ago that we have just 12 years left to make a real change,” said Trudeau when he cited a UN report during his carbon tax announcement.
It is telling that the prime minister declined to quote another part of the same 1,265-page report. It calls for a carbon tax of up to $7,162 per tonne — creating a gasoline tax of $16.69 per litre, costing $835 to fill up your small car.
If this tax-them-until-they-drop approach dreamed up by the United Nations and enforced in B.C. is what the prime minister wants to impose across the rest of the country, Canadians need to speak up now before their bank accounts are sacrificed without stopping climate change.
Kris Sims is B.C. director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.