A recent exchange in Question Period between Andrew Scheer and Justin Trudeau has once again raised the issue of Trudeau’s (apparently) costly Carbon Tax.
It’s been nearly a year and a half since Trudeau’s government revealed their signature environmental policy and many Canadians are left wondering just how hard this new tax will hit their wallets.
As of now, the government has yet to release any official numbers on the real, tangible cost of the carbon tax on the average Canadian taxpayer.
What’s the holdup? Why has the government not released this vital information on the impact of such a major change in tax policy?
The most likely possibility is that they have run the numbers and have come back with some pretty scary figures that they have deemed not of benefit to their reelection chances.
Last February, after receiving some heavily redacted documents from the government on the cost of the carbon tax, Conservative Party Finance critic Pierre Poilievre mounted a strong push for the Liberals to release the numbers saying:
“The measure of a society is how it treats it’s most vulnerable. That is why I asked how it is this carbon tax will impact on the poorest Canadians. At first, the government said, ‘No such data exists.’ Then it said, ‘It exists; we just don’t want to tell you what it is.’ That is the current position of the government, that it wants to keep secret from Canadians, the most vulnerable Canadians, those with the least, the impact of this heavy new carbon tax on heat, hydro, gas and electricity.”
Of course, here we are still a year later with no more information on how much this new tax will cost Canadians.
Since the feds won’t release any of their own stats on the cost of their own policy, it’s up to independent tax watchdogs like the Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF) and the Canadian Tax Journal (CTJ) to fill in the gaps.
The CTF has estimated that this tax, when it’s ramped up to $50 a ton in 2022, will up the average Canadian family tax bill by $2569 a year.
To put that in perspective, let’s take a typical Canadian (suburban or rural) family that has two vehicles and spends (conservatively) $100 on fuel per week. That extra $2569 they’ll be paying in new taxes would have been enough to pay for all their gas for the first half of the year!
In addition to hitting the pocketbooks of the average Canadian family, the CTJ points that a carbon tax will have a significantly greater impact on lower income Canadians.
Households in the lowest income bracket spend on average 20% of their income on energy goods like electricity and gasoline. On the other end of the spectrum, households with the highest income spend only a mere 2% of their income on energy goods. Since the carbon tax is a tax on non-renewable energy sources like coal and natural gas, it obvious that this new tax will unfairly impact low-income Canadians.
All of this is to say; you can see why it might not be in the government’s best interest to go and reveal their own numbers on this controversial new tax.
However, as Trudeau insisted in Question Period, it is absolutely necessary to follow through with this carbon tax scheme because if we don’t, we’ll have no way of reducing those nasty carbon emissions and meeting our Paris targets!
Don’t you see? The environment and the economy go hand in hand!
Or do they?
Even if we were to take the Prime Minister’s tired old talking point seriously, are emissions really being reduced as a result of this carbon tax?
Given its cost, you would dearly hope so.
Of course, there are no Canada-wide stats out on this new policy just yet. However, we can take a look at how the carbon tax has worked in BC.
Looking at the emissions stats from 2005-2015 (the carbon tax was implemented in 2008) we can see that BC was successfully able to reduce their emissions by 4.7%.
On the surface, this looks like a win for the carbon tax. Even despite having its price frozen at $30 a ton since 2013, it was still able to bring BC’s emissions down. However, if you look a little more closely, you can see there are a few other reasons for this modest decrease in GHG emissions.
The primary one being the massive 17 cent per litre “transit tax” charged to commuters in the Greater Vancouver Area. This massive hike in gas prices essentially forced any mid to low income GVA commuters to switch to a public transit option.
While some may look at this as a rationale for further hiking the carbon tax, in doing so they would fail to see the disproportionate impact that it would have on folks living outside of metropolitan areas.
For city commuters, the decision to switch to using public transit as their primary transportation source may be an annoyance, but for anybody outside of a big city, it’s simply not an option.
Another contributing factor to BC’s C02 reductions? The easy access to the cheaper fuel in the US and Alberta. The presence of these two nearby districts and their attractive fuel prices has no doubt led many British Columbians to purchase their fuel at these out of province options.
While on the surface one may claim a victory for BC’s carbon tax, in reality, their version of the carbon tax will not work for Canadians who don’t have access to public transit or cheaper US fuel options.
So, to come back to my original query – will Trudeau’s carbon tax actually reduce carbon emissions?
Only marginally it seems – and at a much higher cost to rural and lower-income Canadians.
The majority of Canadian emissions will be shifted to the carbon tax-free United States with many Canadians opting to fuel up or even move their businesses there.
This, of course, being the same United States that is actually leading the world in carbon emission reductions despite not having a cash-grabbing devised carbon tax scheme of their own.
Man, it’s almost like a consumer-friendly, free-market approach to climate change driven by an environmentally conscious populace is actually far more effective at reducing carbon emissions than the government.
But nope, that’s crazy talk.
Let’s just give our money to Justin Trudeau and let him solve climate change.
Sound good to you?