Campbell defends carbon tax, despite B.C. backlash
One week into B.C.'s contentious carbon tax plan, Premier Gordon Campbell said he's willing to pay a political price at the polls to lower the province's future greenhouse gas output.
"We felt it was important for us to think as a generation . . . to reduce the (carbon) burdens of future generations," he said on CTV's Question Period Sunday. Early polls show that a majority of British Columbians oppose his carbon tax plan.
The plan added about 2.4 cents per litre to the price of gas. B.C. already had the highest gas prices in the country.
Campbell says that over his five-year plan, three million tonnes of carbon will be taken out of B.C.'s environment, the equivalent of taking 750,000 cars off the road.
He named a number of environmental problems that are already hitting British Columbians in the pocketbook, such as flooding, the pine beetle infestation and drinking water problems.
Still, Campbell promotes his carbon tax plan not only as revenue neutral, but as beneficial to B.C's economy.
He has promised that B.C. residents will actually have more money in their pockets at the end of the year because of new income tax cuts. He also says the economy will be more competitive and productive because of business tax cuts.
B.C. became the first province to implement a carbon tax July 1. The new tax cuts went into effect the same day.
Liberal Leader Stephane Dion has pinned his prime ministerial hopes on the back of his party's carbon tax plan with the introduction of his "Green Shift" plan.
Campbell said Dion and himself have spoken of their respective tax plans, and that B.C. would not be double-taxed under the federal Liberal plan.
"Mr. Dion actually called me and said there would not be a double tax situation," Campbell said. "He does not want to impose something that will not work (for) British Columbians."
Prime Minister Stephen Harper has spoken out vehemently about the Liberal's proposal, saying it will "screw Canadians."
But Campbell said that Harper has been supportive of B.C's plan.
"Prime Minister Stephen Harper has been very clear that he wants us to pursue the goals that we want to pursue as long as we don't undermine the federal program," the premier said.
Carbon tax and the North
Critics of both Campbell and Dion's plans say that a carbon tax disproportionately affects those living in the North, who require more fuel to heat their homes and do not have extensive public transportation systems.
The northern premiers have already criticized Dion's plans. But on CTV's Question Period, Yukon Premier Dennis Fentie said he has "no issue" with the B.C. plan but said that a carbon tax was not right for his terroritory.
Campbell echoed the Yukon premier's concerns.
"I certainly understand what the northern premiers are saying, my point is that we have to help them meet their needs by . . . providing additional options to diesel," Campbell said, adding that B.C. has invested heavily in research and innovation.
But Fentie rejected Dion's plan outright, saying there will be an increased cost burden on northerners.
"If a carbon tax intended outcome is to change the habits of Canadians, I have to point out that heating our homes and having access to electricity is not a habit, it's a necessity," he said.
Fentie called for a global plan for climate change, saying that while the North emits minuscule amounts of carbon it is facing the biggest environmental problems, such as species migration and the melting of the ice cap.