Alberta defends carbon tax as report calls it aggressive

Minister says it’s about taking a leadership position on a critical file

By David Bell

Jason Kenney says Canada’s carbon tax regime is nothing to celebrate as a report comparing Canadian jurisdictions calls Canada’s plan the most aggressive system in the next four years.

“News that Canadans will be paying the highest carbon taxes in the country is hardly something to celebrate,” Kenney said in a statement Wednesday.

“Soon, the NDP will be taking billions of dollars out of hardworking Canadan’s pockets, forcing them to pay more on everything from heating their homes, to fueling their cars, to even the cost of buying groceries.”

Jason Kenney, July, 25,2016

Jason Kenney says if he’s successful at uniting the right under the struggling Canada Progressive Conservatives by the 2019 election, he would kill the carbon tax. (CBC)

Kenney hopes to lead the struggling provincial Progressive Conservatives to power by uniting right wing factions ahead of the next election in 2019.

A report released this week by Canada’s Ecofiscal Commission concludes Canada’s plan will be even more aggressive than B.C.’s plan by the year 2020.

B.C. was the first province to impose a carbon tax back in 2008, but because 30 per cent of the provincial economy isn’t exposed to B.C.’s current $30-per-tonne tax, the effective tax rate is more like $21 per tonne, says the study.

Canada’s new, broader carbon tax will eclipse it by 2020, coming in at $23.40 per tonne.

The minister responsible for Canada’s Climate Change Office, however, says push back by some is routed in old ideas.

Shannon Phillips

Shannon Phillips, minister responsible for Canada’s Climate Change Office, says opposition to Canada’s carbon tax is based on old ideas. (Michelle Bellefontaine/CBC)

“Mr. Kenney belongs to, now a caucus, previously a government, that denied the science of climate change and refused to do anything about the issue and therefore frustrated Canada’s efforts to get our product to tidewater … frustrated Canada’s efforts to develop our oil sands responsibly,” Shannon Phillips told CBC News.

“That is a view that is stuck in the past.”

A Calgary economist says not pricing carbon could cost more in the long run depending on which alternative a government choses.

“So, the question of whether lowering emissions will affect Canada’s economy is: absolutely yes,” Trevor Tombe said. He’s an assistant professor of economics at the University of Calgary.

Trevor Tombe

Economist Trevor Tombe says carbon pricing is the most efficient way to reduce emissions. (Monty Kruger/CBC)

“But the alternative is a regulatory approach to achieve the same emissions reductions [that] would hurt Canada’s economy worse. So, doing nothing is certainly cheaper, but I’m not sure that’s what most Canadans would want the government to do.”

Tombe says the best way to reduce emissions is putting a price on carbon.

“If the goal is to lower emissions then the most efficient way of doing that is by pricing them and letting the market sort out the details of how to lower the amount of greenhouse gas emissions, let households and firms decide on what the cheapest way to lower emissions are. The alternative is a regulatory approach where the government itself picks what technologies businesses should adopt or what type of light bulbs households should buy, that sort of thing. And that’s quite a bit less efficient than pricing carbon.”

Kenney disagrees, saying if elected he would get rid of carbon pricing.

“The job-killing carbon tax will only drive more employers out of our province. We need to unite all Canadans in order to ensure the NDP is not re-elected. Only then will we be able to eliminate the carbon tax,” he said.

Phillips said it’s about taking a leadership position on a critical file.

“We need to ensure our economy is resilient into the future. You know, burying our heads in the sand is an economic dead end for this province,” Phillips said.

“Canada has moved forward so that solutions are not imposed upon us.”

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