We all need to do our best to prevent and reduce climate change. However, I have been ruminating for far too long about an issue that really bothers me. I am not a climate change expert or an economist, but I find the oversimplification of the Canadian Carbon Tax program to be very concerning. I feel that it is an simplified condescending gimmick to allow politicians to have a quick solution for climate change. Some very smart people say that Carbon Taxation will cause us to emit less carbon, so it must be true, so we should all just go for it.
Canadian Federal Election
On October 21, 2019 Canadians voted in a Federal Election. Climate change and Carbon Taxation were important issues in our federal election. The returning Liberal Government, the Green Party, the Bloc Quebecois and the New Democratic Party were all in favour of a Carbon Tax, and claiming to fight climate change. The defeated Conservatives were against Carbon Tax. Although the political discussion seemed to be about climate change and Carbon Tax – I still have no idea what we will be doing to reduce climate change. I just know we are paying tax.
In my opinion Carbon Taxation is a confusing and oversimplified concept – which possibly just hasn’t been well explained in the media. At the same time as the election campaign was occurring, we had climate marches in September across Canada, and even had Greta Thunberg marching and travelling across Canada. We all care about climate change, and a Carbon Tax seems like an easy answer.
It has been stated in the news media that Canadians voted overwhelmingly in favour of Carbon Tax. This is because “Roughly two-thirds of voters marked an “X” by the name of a Liberal, NDP, Green or Bloc Québécois candidate.” https://www.cbc.ca/news/business/trudeau-sheer-election-carbon-tax-1.5330829
I feel that this claim is misleading. It may be the end result that 2/3 of us voted for parties that support the Carbon Tax, but we don’t really know if that was the intent of the voters. Roughly 34% of the popular vote went to the defeated Conservative party, 33% went to the winning Liberals, and the balance to the other parties and independents.
If I think of a small group of “associates”, I know that 3 of us voted Green – 2 of whom are against the carbon tax, one voted Liberal but is against the carbon tax, and one voted conservative and is against the carbon tax. One was confused by the whole thing and did not vote. All of us are concerned about climate change. So that’s 20% of our voters who voted for parties against the carbon tax, and 80% or us who voted for parties in favour of the carbon tax, but only 20% who were actually in favour of the carbon tax – (the only one with no gas or home heating expenses).
It should also been noted in that the Liberal strength was in the eastern provinces and BC, while the Conservative strength was in the western provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan and part of Manitoba. Canada has become more divided geographically.
Can we assume that most Canadians really want to pay more taxes? I really don’t think that this is the case. I just think Carbon Tax has been oversimplified as the quick solution for climate change, and those 4 parties went along with the easy way out.
The Conservatives recognized that people don’t really want to pay more tax. They just didn’t come up with any type of environmentally enticing issues. They just campaigned badly, missing out on the fact that we all care about the environment and we want a solution.
Carbon Credits and Carbon Taxation
I had written previously about carbon credits and carbon taxes. They are both in the news and people keep throwing these terms around. Is this how wealthy people and politicians will save the world from climate change? We pay for carbon credits and carbon taxes with dollars and cents, so that should do it shouldn’t it?
When we fly on airlines we have the option to pay more for our tickets and this will buy us the carbon credits to offset our flight’s impact on the environment. Magic, just like that. What really happens is that the people you pay the extra money to, buy carbon credits from another company. They take MOST of that money and give it to other organizations who are supposed to be doing green projects. So we can travel and not feel guilty about the way in which our own travel generates carbon emissions. Instead of travelling less, we can pay more and not feel guilty.
Election Campaign Airliner Use
Just as an aside, during the election campaign, we saw the Conservative leader with only one campaign airliner, and the Liberal leader with two. A Conservative party press release stated – “Despite marching in climate strikes, lecturing everybody else on lowering emissions and imposing a carbon tax on hard-working Canadians, Justin Trudeau and the Liberals are secretly using two aircraft to campaign in this election,” According to Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, the Liberal party purchased carbon offsets for campaign travel. “I will highlight that Andrew Scheer and his Conservatives did not purchase carbon offsets for their transportation because they think pollution should be free,” he said. In the meantime we got to see Green Party leader Elizabeth May arriving at events in a Tesla.
So then, should all Canadians should fly and travel around as much as possible, but buy carbon offsets with all their extra cash that’s leftover from buying Teslas?
Carbon Tax Logic
The government of Canada has imposed Carbon Taxes on gasoline purchases, heating oil, and I’m not sure what else for consumers. It has also imposed those taxes on industry and retail, etc. The idea of Carbon Tax seems to be that if we have to spend more on gas and heat, then we will use less. “Putting a price on carbon pollution is the most efficient way to reduce GHG emissions. Pricing pollution will drive innovative solutions to provide low-carbon choices for consumers and businesses.” https://www.canada.ca/en/environment-climate-change/news/2017/05/pricing_carbon_pollutionincanadahowitwillwork.html
I don’t know about you, but I already try to minimize my gas and heating fuel use as much as possible. I have always tried to keep my home energy efficient. I’m sure my summer air conditioning bill is lower than any of these political candidates.
There doesn’t seem to be a lot of mention that the cost of producing goods, and the cost of transporting things will go up. So my groceries will cost more, my clothes and household goods will cost more, and so will the cost of travel. So does this mean that Canadians will stay home, be cold, eat less and use less? Our manufacturers are already at a disadvantage to manufacturers in other parts of the world with less regulation and lower labour costs and standards.
What are we doing about Climate Change?
My objection to this whole issue, is that the campaigning just seemed to be all about the tax and not about how we are going to prevent climate change. It’s not a calculation of dollars and cents, we need to do things!
Where does the Carbon Tax Go?
After the Carbon Tax began before the election, most Canadians then received rebates of a few hundred dollars on their tax return. The tax is meant to be collected, and then returned to Canadians – redistributed. In our household of young adults away at University, I know that we paid lots of transportation costs and heating for our children and ourselves. Then we all received tax rebates – our children more than us because they have less income. Does this make any sense? It’s a redistribution of our money without any purpose.
The Carbon Tax is an enormous amount of tax revenue being collected by our government. Can we really trust our government to use it responsibly? After all once the government starts collecting a tax, it seems to become permanent. The Income Tax was first introduced in Canada in 1917 as a temporary tax to finance the war effort. Aren’t we done paying for that yet?
We are told we need to Increase Carbon Tax?
Now we are hearing that the Carbon Taxes are not enough. The newspapers tell us that “canada needs a carbon tax of 210 a tonne by 2030 to meet Paris targets” https://nationalpost.com/news/politics/canada-needs-carbon-tax-of-210-a-tonne-by-2030-to-meet-paris-targets-report-says
Kyoto and Paris agreements as I understand them:
Is that the Paris agreement or the Kyoto agreement? These were both enacted under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. It’s almost 2020 and isn’t it time to look at these again? Initially the objective of the 1997 Kyoto accord, was to reduce carbon emissions to 4% below the 1990 levels and a second part, was to lower the emissions by a further 18%. That was only for developed nations, as developing nations were opted out, so the Kyoto only pertained to 15% of the world’s emissions! The Paris Agreement (2015) covers 180 countries who voluntarily submitted their emissions targets and replaces the Kyoto Accord in 2020. So more nations are included, but the targets are fuzzier here.
Canadian Ecofiscal Commission
Back to Canada here – Something called the Ecofiscal Commission produced a new report that indicates that Canadians need to pay even more taxes to meet the Paris climate accord commitments. Canada’s Ecofiscal Commission https://ecofiscal.ca/ is a think tank of sorts. “Canada’s Ecofiscal Commission was formed by a group of experienced, policy-minded economists from across the country, seeking to broaden the discussion of ecofiscal policy reform beyond the academic sphere and into the realm of practical policy application. The Ecofiscal Commission and its Commissioners are fully independent and aim to inform the public and policy-makers across the political spectrum, at all levels of government.” The 13 Commissioners according to the website appear to be a number of Economists, Policy Writers, professors – really important economic experts. People who know how to carry out economic intervention and policy changes.
After the 13 Commissioners, there are 14 more important people. Some former politicians, some presidents of important companies like GE Canada, Mattamy Homes (a homebuilder), Suncor, although it looks like there is a former CEO of the Suzuki Foundation and a President of the Ivey Foundation – large charitable foundations involved in environmental causes. I may be overly critical and mistaken, and I’m definitely overgeneralizing, but these people still seem to be from a different echelon from me. I’m sure they are all brilliant and knowledgeable in addition to being very socially connected and economically connected.
The Commissioners and the Policy Advisors are supported by a staff, which provides research and communications support. But my theory is that if this organization exists to find economic solutions to climate change, then that would be the result.
Am I crazy or does it justify itself? The organization is funded by some of the companies of the board members – Suncor, TD, Some charitable foundations from the superwealthy families, and a public policy company. So that’s interesting.
This organization appears to have lots of brilliant, important, connected people and lots of funds to effectively promote and encourage carbon taxation. By the way it spent $1.3 million last year to tell us that. It’s not a big budget, for a charity, but why not just spend it on green projects instead of all that thinking instead?
I’ve noticed though that even though this is an independently funded organization, it has a Big Oil company executive on the board. I seems that Fossil Fuel organizations seem to be in favour of Carbon Taxes in general. https://qz.com/964499/which-fossil-fuel-companies-support-a-carbon-tax/
Why would Oil Companies want a Carbon Tax?
Why would big oil companies want a carbon tax? Apparently in a presentation by Suncor’s Steve Williams: “Williams, whose company is Canada’s dominant oilsands producer, made his carbon price pitch at a speech in Calgary last month, the sentiments of which were echoed by an executive with Cenovus Energy, another major oilsands player. But the push came with a caveat: that any carbon tax be “broad-based” — applied to consumers and industry alike.” https://business.financialpost.com/commodities/energy/why-is-big-oil-championing-a-carbon-tax-experts-say-its-so-companies-dont-get-blindsided
So these companys appear to be getting in front of the climate change issue. Not necessarily changing their own production methods, but agreeing to a tax across all of Canada’s consumers and businesses so that we can all be affected.
Nobel Prize Winning Economist on Carbon Taxation
The whole concept is justified by the work of Nobel Prize winning economist. “Scientists and economists agree that when the government puts a price on carbon, it raises the incentive for industries to innovate and find ways to lower their emissions. According to Nobel Prize winner Paul Romer carbon taxation is the solution “The policy is very simple. If you just commit to a tax on the usage of fuels that directly or indirectly release greenhouse gases, and then you make that tax increase steadily in the future … people will see that there’s a big profit to be made from figuring out ways to supply energy where they can do it without incurring the tax. ” https://www.cbc.ca/radio/asithappens/as-it-happens-monday-edition-1.4843029/nobel-prize-winning-economist-says-carbon-taxes-are-the-solution-to-climate-change-1.4854639
So again, an economist is looking for solutions to climate change. But if you read the quotation he implies that businesses will find more cost effective ways of producing energy because of the tax. (” figuring out ways to supply energy where they can do it without incurring the tax. “) That’s not what I see. I see people paying more tax, businesses paying more tax, and oil companies doing the same? My gasoline, heating oil and electricity are already taxed a lot! I already try to conserve, re-use, recycle. This taxation will not affect my decision making.
All of Canada is not Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal
What would be nice is if it was more affordable or practical to be more energy efficient, but I don’t see any of that. As a consumer I need help, I don’t need to be manipulated and taxed. To make matters worse, we have a beautiful enormous country with cities spread from end to end. While we may have public transportation within cities, and a narrow cross Canada train corridor, most people cannot get from city to city using public transportation. All of Canada is not on a hub with Toronto’s or Vancouver’s transportation systems.
For example, a visit to us from a city 1 hour away, would involve a 5 hour bus ride. My son took a bus ride from his University town to his girlfriend’s College town a one and a half hour ride away from us. It took him 8 hours (I told him not to attempt it, but he was committed). My daughter’s train ride from a major city to Toronto takes the same amount of time as a drive, but cost $180 today. So driving was still cheaper even with the Carbon Tax. These are silly examples, but they are real!
All Canadians do not have the same opportunities to use public transit
A Climate Tax on gas for all Canadians assumes that they have a choice to use public transportation in a reasonable way. We Canadians who do not live in cities with public transportation networks do not have an alternative method of transportation.
What will we do to Reduce Climate Change?
I’m still looking for someone to tell me how we will save the environment. I am not an expert on climate, economics, charity or anything like that. I just want to specifically know where does all that money go to and how will it save the environment. I believe that all of these people want to find a solution to climate change, but they are using what they know about economics and policy to influence our government and the media. I would like to know what the steps are to reduce the impact of climate change – not the costs.