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Posted: October 23, 2018

Will a Canadian Carbon Tax save the Earth?

By Bill Bennett

Op-Ed Commentary

The federal Liberal government is forging ahead with a carbon tax on taxpayers and our businesses.

Mr. Trudeau is apparently willing to sacrifice our international competitiveness with a new tax on fuels, and chase away investment, thereby reducing tax revenues that pay for healthcare and other essential services. The justification? A Canadian carbon tax will make a meaningful difference to the amount of human-caused CO2 emitted into the global atmosphere.

But here is the truth. No Canadian policy can meaningfully reduce the amount of CO2 emitted into the global atmosphere by humans. We are roughly 0.5% of the world’s 7.3 billion population and account for less than two per cent of global human-caused CO2 emissions. Nothing we do will meaningfully reduce CO2 levels. Justin Trudeau’s carbon tax is 100% virtue signalling and zero per cent effective public policy.

When I was a junior minister in 2006 with the Gordon Campbell government, Mr. Campbell, who did many positive things for B.C., was befriended by California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. Arnold, who knows a thing or two about mass marketing, had surrounded himself with true believers from the climate change movement. Some of these true believers attached themselves to Mr. Campbell, who liked new ideas. The “revenue-neutral carbon tax” concept was hatched and pushed through the B.C. cabinet and government caucus very quickly.

I was not a fan, but my internal dissent was no match for the Premier’s control over caucus. In fairness, the B.C. carbon tax has many supporters.

Since then, B.C. governments have collected billions in carbon tax and emissions have continued to rise. Until the NDP became government last year, tax concessions equal to the amounts collected were granted annually to ensure “revenue-neutrality.”

The problem is, after a few tax reductions on the corporate and personal side, it becomes difficult to know who should get the annual tax concessions that enable government to show “revenue neutrality.”

Eventually, those who paid the most carbon tax (mining) got little to nothing back and those who paid next to no carbon tax received hundreds of millions in tax concessions. The B.C. film and television industry comes to mind. The carbon tax is really a shell game that politicians use to hand out money to groups whose votes they need. It does not actually work to change behaviour. It does not reduce the emission of CO2 in any significant way.

I believe Canada should facilitate, through policy, the strongest economy possible and then use healthy tax revenues to invest in climate change mitigation measures (flood and forest fire mitigation). In addition, government should encourage the development of technology that will, over time, allow cleaner burning or no burning of fossil fuels. This is an area where Canada can be a world leader.

We should also immediately build the oil pipelines we need to the west and east coasts. We should stop buying oil from countries like Nigeria, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela and start getting world price for our Canadian oil rather than being held hostage by the U.S.

Our federal government should remove the charitable status from U.S. foundations and their Canadian subsidiaries that want Canada’s oil industry to remain completely reliant on a U.S. market with its lower prices. And we should recognize Canada is already a leader in environmental management.

One thing we know for sure is that Canada can produce cleaner gas and oil in a more responsible manner than most other nations. By producing it here in Canada and selling it around the world, we will be doing more to clean up global air than any Canadian carbon tax ever will.

Cranbrook resident Bill Bennett was a four-term Kootenay East MLA and former Minister of State for Mining; Minster of Tourism, Culture and Arts; Minister of Community and Rural Development; Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources; and Minister of Energy during his 16-year career. Now retired, he provides consulting services through Bill Bennett Consulting Inc.

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