British Columbia is considering increasing its carbon tax, the premier of Canada’s westernmost province said last week.
According to several media sources, Christy Clark said she is exploring the idea, but stressed that any rise would be offset with tax cuts elsewhere.
“With the weakness in the global economy today, we also have to acknowledge that families are feeling profoundly burdened … There cannot be any increase in the carbon tax without any tax relief,” she said, according to VanCityBuzz.com.
“Protecting our planet does not have to come at an economic cost. We tax what we don’t want, which is pollution, and then we try to remove taxes from things we do want. We believe carbon pricing is taxing people differently, not taxing people more.”
Clark was speaking a day before Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau met with provincial and territorial premiers to hash out a new national climate change strategy.
The leaders late on Thursday announced that they had agreed a plan to develop a strategy over the next six months to introduce nationwide carbon pricing. This came after the federal government had reportedly threatened to impose a minimum carbon price of at least C$15/tonne on the provinces if they failed to act.
Some observers say Clark’s announcement could be aimed at helping BC build a competitive advantage over the other provinces by cutting sales and potentially income taxes.
British Columbia in 2008 imposed a C$10/tonne carbon tax on its power, heat and transportation sectors, accounting for 70-80% of the province’s economy.
It was to increase annually by C$5, but Clark in 2012 froze the tax at C$30/tonne until July 2018 over concerns about its impact on consumers and businesses.
The BC government has since appointed a task force to help it review and build on the province’s existing climate change plan.
Amongst the 32 recommendations presented by the panel last November were that BC’s government should increase the tax at an annual rate of $10/tonne once unfrozen, it should expand the tax to cover all GHG sources, and the government should use some of the proceeds to cut provincial sales tax to 6% from 7%.
The report published by the task force noted that BC’s greenhouse gas emissions “have started creeping up again and are projected to continue rising.”
As such, its existing GHG reduction target of a 33% cut below 2007 levels by 2020 will be “extremely difficult to meet at this point”, and therefore the province should consider setting and focussing on meeting a new 2030 goal.
Separately, Ontario’s opposition Progressive Conservative party on Saturday called the province’s new carbon market a “cash-grab” and vowed to replace it, possibly with a revenue-neutral carbon tax, should they defeat the ruling Liberals in the 2018 election.
Ontario PC leader Patrick Brown made the announcement during a speech at the party’s annual convention in Ottawa.
“Let me say this as clearly as I can: climate change is a fact, it is a threat, [and] it is man-made. We have to do something about it, and that something includes putting a price on carbon,” he said.
“Having polluters pay and having that returned as a dividend to taxpayers in broad-based tax relief is a sensible approach to dealing with the environmental challenges of today,” Brown later told The Canadian Press in an interview.
Ontario Environment Minister Glen Murray took to Twitter on Sunday to call out Brown, who was previously a federal MP under former conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
“Climate denier Patrick Brown discovers climate change. Can he explain why for 10 years he supported the politics of denial & inaction?” Murray tweeted.
“Why did Patrick Brown not once speak out on climate change while Harper undermined action on climate change? Not even one little word?”
By Mike Szabo – firstname.lastname@example.org