Premier Christy Clark and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau attend first ministers' meeting in Vancouver last week.

BC VIEWS: Premiers do the carbon shuffle

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau declares victory, George W. Bush-style, as premiers reject his promised national carbon price

Premier Christy Clark had her dancing shoes on as yet another “climate change” meeting ended in disarray in Vancouver last week.

“This is not the end,” Clark assured reporters after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the premiers emerged with no agreement on a national minimum carbon price. No kidding.

Trudeau declared victory by announcing the unanimous consent to a “Vancouver Declaration,” which basically pays lip service to the concept of “carbon pricing” and kicks another grand federal election promise down the road.

[Vancouver Declaration here. Its first promise is to “increase the level of ambition.” No kidding.]

As the rest headed for jets waiting at Vancouver airport, Clark expressed the hope that the public would say “they got together and they made progress.” Did they? Let’s take a look.

Going into the Whistler-Vancouver stop on Trudeau’s globe-trotting glamour tour, Clark correctly noted that it’s other provinces that need to make progress. B.C. has a clear price on carbon emissions; it’s been held at $30 a tonne since Clark succeeded its creator, Gordon Campbell.

Clark’s advice for other premiers is to follow Campbell’s example of a revenue-neutral carbon tax, offset by income tax reductions. You won’t build public support for a carbon tax that makes people poorer, she said.

Of course that’s what Alberta is doing, at a time when many residents are getting poorer already. Alberta’s NDP government plans to match the rate of B.C.’s carbon tax within two years and spend the proceeds.

Other premiers have more creative definitions for pricing carbon.

Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil pointed to transmission lines and power purchases from the Muskrat Falls dam under construction in Labrador, to substitute hydro for coal-fired power. The highest electricity prices in Canada are their “carbon pricing” plan.

Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall pointed to SaskPower’s Boundary Dam carbon capture and storage project. It is the world’s first coal-fired power station to capture carbon dioxide after combustion. The CO2 is sold to oilfield operators who inject it into declining wells to push more oil out, and the project intends to capture sulphur dioxide and fly ash to process and sell for other industrial uses.

Wall is the only Canadian leader to state a couple of inconvenient truths. The purpose of this exercise is to reduce carbon emissions, not to raise tax revenues. And now is the worst possible time to impose more taxes on the oil and gas industry.

Clark’s stand-pat strategy on the B.C. carbon tax is going to change this year, as positioning begins for the 2017 election. A B.C. government advisory panel has recommended a 33 per cent increase, conveniently starting in 2018, with annual increases after that.

The current seven-cent-per-litre carbon tax on gasoline sold in B.C. is hardly a deterrent these days, as pump prices have tumbled and could stay low for years to come. And with a fragile economy, it seems unlikely that a big boost in carbon taxes will find favour with voters a year from now.

The B.C. NDP is trying to rebuild its credibility on climate policy. NDP leader John Horgan tried to revise the party’s history, claiming in year-end interviews that the NDP didn’t oppose the carbon tax, only making it revenue neutral rather than spending the money on green initiatives, as Alberta wants to do.

Alas, the NDP’s “axe the tax” campaign going into the 2009 election is a matter of record. The party’s election platform warned that Campbell’s plan “increases taxes for average families by tripling the gas tax” to its current level.

Last week the NDP issued a news release denouncing Clark for presiding over increasing greenhouse gas emissions.

Tom Fletcher is B.C. legislature reporter and columnist for Black Press. Email: tfletcher@blackpress.ca Twitter: @tomfletcherbc

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Comments are closed

Just Posted

QUIZ: Put your knowledge of Canada to the test

How much do you know about our country?

Conservation officers kill black bear near Terrace

Bear was getting into garbage in town, not afraid of humans

Regional District of Kitimat-Stikine achieved carbon neutrality in 2019

The district reported net negative greenhouse gas emissions

Terrace Youth Soccer Association kicks off 2020 season

TYSA using a four phase approach starting with individual training

Surgeries in Northern Health area returning to pre-pandemic levels

Backlog of surgeries in area could take two years to clear

‘This year is unlike any other’: Trudeau delivers Canada day address

Sophie Gregoire Trudeau and the Prime Minister release video celebrating the national holiday

Facing changes together: your community, your journalists

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world in ways that would have… Continue reading

PHOTOS: Dual rallies take over Legislature lawn on Canada Day

Resist Canada 153 highlighted colonization and genocide, Unify the People called COVID a hoax

Gov. General honours Canadians for bravery, volunteer service

Five categories of winners presented on Canada Day

COVID-19: Should non-medical masks be mandatory in Canada?

New poll shows Canadians are divided on the rules around mandatory masks

‘A little bit scary for everybody’: Air passengers wary as new rules take effect

Masks or face coverings have been mandatory on flights since April 20

VIDEO: Prince William and Kate chat with B.C. hospital staff about COVID-19

Seven-minute video posted to Youtube on Canada Day

River centre says heavy rains could bring flooding to central, northeastern B.C.

Water levels are already unusually high and river banks can be extremely unstable

Most Read