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Carbon tax policy divisive as feds adopt ‘regional’ exemption

Posted on December 7, 2023 by admin

By Trevor Busch
Southern Alberta Newspapers
editor@tabertimes.com

The recent move by the Liberals to exempt home heating oil from the federal carbon tax, rather than extending that exemption to all forms of home heating, has become a political hot potato for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

The move is widely viewed as a partisan nod to voters in Atlantic Canada, where 30 per cent of homeowners still use oil to heat their homes. Many Canadians have argued taking a selective approach to carbon tax exemptions exacerbates regional divisions in a nation that has often been plagued by similar problems throughout its history. 

“It was certainly a step back for that,” said Taber-Warner MLA Grant Hunter. “And I think that even guys like Trevor Tombe (economist, University of Calgary) who is a big supporter of that whole approach, said that what has been kind of simmering for some time is the fairness of the policy. And now in Alberta, we struggle with seeing the fairness in many of these areas, like we’ve seen it with CPP, we’ve seen it with over contributions and CPP. We’ve seen it with the equalization formula, we’ve seen it now in this situation, just one more thing that just seems to needle us in the ribs and say, ‘Alberta, Saskatchewan, sorry, we don’t care about you as much, you’re not as important as a Canadian citizen as someone from the Maritimes’. I just think that it’s divisive politics, if Trudeau is thinking he needs to go into the election to try to buy some votes over in Eastern Canada, at our expense. But it just says it is really not becoming of the Prime Minister to do something like that.”

Sparking initial dialogue among Canadians and prompting some unsuccessful battles in the House of Commons to extend the exemption to all forms of home heating, the debate has since shifted to the overall value of putting a price on carbon and whether this decision confirms the federal government’s policy approach has been a failure.

“That is the quintessential question, right? Because the arguments are always that if you create a policy, then we can force society to go one way,” said Hunter.

The Taber-Warner MLA outlined why he believes the federal government’s carbon tax policy is detrimental to the province and the nation, and how it makes Canada less competitive – and therefore less attractive for investment – by comparison to other jurisdictions in North America and the world.

“First of all, unless everybody in the world is going to do a carbon tax, those countries that actually implement a carbon tax makes them less competitive with those other countries that don’t have a carbon tax on a regular basis. It just seems like this crazy joke that’s being played on us that makes us less competitive. So why are we here? Why are we doing this? Across the border in Montana, they don’t have a carbon tax. So the first question is, (why) unless everybody’s going to do it? And then everybody would be equally affected by it. Why are we doing it when we only contribute 1.6 per cent of the world’s GHG emissions? If this is about helping climate, then how does doing a carbon tax here achieve that? It doesn’t, it’s a virtue-signalling trap.”

Hunter isn’t convinced the carbon tax is having any real impact in combatting climate change, and the federal government still has an uphill battle in convincing many Canadians of the same.

“I’m not trying to be offensive here, it’s really an issue of debate. But I don’t think they’ve been able to clearly convince people that this is really, truly going to move the needle. And the other thing, so you bring in a carbon tax, and then you say this is about being able to change people’s buying decisions or purchases. But then what they do is, they say we’re giving a whole bunch of carbon credit or carbon tax rebates to people. So you may get more than that, their argument was we get more than they’re actually paying. And so if it’s about making it so difficult for people that they say, ‘I gotta change my buying decisions’ why are they given those carbon credits for carbon tax rebates? For me, it is just not common sense.”

Hunter is firmly convinced the real answer to climate policy is through promoting innovation and new technologies, not nickel and diming Canadians at the pumps and through their utility bills.

“In every situation and historically, when you see how things have changed, they have changed through innovation. We have innovated our way out of it. Day in and day out, we are so innovative as people, and as a human race. And that is where I would say I’m seeing lots and lots of growth in terms of fixing things – not carbon tax, that’s a policy that gets kind of rammed down our throats and people get angry and upset about it. Where we can really be effective is what Alberta has done for decades, which is TIER (Technology and Innovation Emissions Reduction) funding. So we already have a price on carbon in Alberta. So what happens with TIER funding in Alberta is the industry pays into a fund, and then they can actually apply for that fund for innovating their way out of the problem. For climate change, that that has been more effective. We’ve done more to reduce GHG emissions on that front than anything that I’ve ever seen on carbon tax.”

In an online poll conducted by the Times Nov. 15-21, 81 per cent of respondents indicated the federal government’s selective approach to carbon tax exemptions inflames regional divisions in Canada.

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