Don Martin: Political hot air to blame for pending carbon pricing failure
Published Thursday, April 5, 2018 5:53PM EDT
On the same day as a think tank of economists found most Canadians don’t understand carbon pricing, the federal environment minister proved she doesn’t understand taxpayers.
Environment Minister Catherine McKenna says if Ontario’s Doug Ford or Alberta’s Jason Kenney win their respective elections and refuse to collect a carbon tax – as both seem likely to do – she will rebate the forsaken revenue directly to taxpayers.
Voters are supposed to hear that as a threat and tremble. In the real world, that will be seen as an election goodie and drive them to elect carbon pricing opponents.
According to a survey released this week by the Ecofiscal Commission of economist do-gooders, most voters don’t understand the carbon taxation concept.
It’s easy to see why. Just try to grasp a cap and trade system like Ontario’s, where companies go to an auction based in California and bid $2.4 billion for the right to buy pollution rights. That’s a pretty weird concept.
And then consider what that carbon tax windfall does to induce green behavior by the average person. Actually, nothing.
It helped me a bit. I’m one of the 100,000 homeowners who spotted a $40-million smart thermostats giveaway and signed up before they sold out, even though my older version is working quite well in delivering temperature control on a timer.
But most taxpayers, who don’t need new windows or don’t want a geo-thermal heating system installed, won’t see any payback. And they can only watch as a luxury Tesla or some other $75,000 electric car drives by, partially financed by a $14,000 government rebate from their gasoline fill-ups.
So if the choice is to cancel freebies of zero benefit to 99 per cent of taxpayers in favor of a federal carbon rebate for everybody, well, say hello to premiers Doug Ford and Jason Kenney.
The problem with the current regimes of carbon pricing is that they’re insufficiently harsh to induce real behavioral change and increasingly used as slush funding for governments to squander in their own whimsical way.
Poorly explained as a taxation stick and poorly distributed as an environmental carrot, carbon pricing is likely on the way out in two pivotal provinces where emission reductions are crucial to fighting very real climate change.
But for the real culprit in this pending failure, one can only blame the overproduction of hot political air.
That’s the Last Word.