Thursday, April 16, 2009

The NDP and the Carbon Tax

I am finding the debate on this issue tedious. The NDP clearly has made a huge error on this issue as every recommendation for dealing with climate change is to price carbon, a carbon tax is the easiest way to do it. A carbon tax that uses tax shifting, meaning no net increases in tax take by the goverment, is truly using taxation as a public policy tool. The BC Liberals have chosen to be on the forefront on public policy on this issue. The simply are more forward thinking and progressive than anyone else out there.

Instead of supporting something the government is doing that is a very smart idea, the NDP is opposing this. There is no shortage of public policy differences the NDP could highlight.

The carbon tax is the most progressive of taxes possible because it is your choice to pay it or not. The poorest in society have almost most direct impact from it because their purchases of fuels is limited. People choosing to have several cars, a truck, a boat, a quad etc will end up paying the most.

The carbon tax will also increase the demand for transit, getting rid of it will reduce the demand.

The alternative to a carbon tax is a cap and trade system. Cap and trade will require huge amounts of regulation and monitoring, it will be very open to corrupt behaviour. Cap and trade will always be open to government meddling with the cap - if the cap is high enough, there is no need for the trade. One only needs to look at how public power has worked in BC, even though it would make good sense for conservation reasons to raise electrical rates, no government has the guts to do it. Cap and trade honestly scares me given the dangers I noted above.

A tax we can choose to pay or not is the best way to price carbon. It is my choice how much gas I want to buy and therefore how much tax I pay. The tax will rise over time. The $30 a tonne price we will see in a few years will still likely not be high enough, but it will be higher than elsewhere and people will make decisions to avoid paying the tax. We will reduce our fuel use compared to elsewhere.

Clearly the NDP chose to oppose the carbon tax because they thought they could gain political points. There was no debate of this as a policy at any NDP convention, it was just born over a coffee in the legislature by the brains trust that gave the province one of the weakest oppositions ever. This is not a thought out or rational policy decision, but a spur of the moment one they chose in the hopes of bad polling numbers for the Liberals. The wierd thing is that there environmentalists out there supporting the NDP in this decision, clearly these are people putting political partisan views ahead of a better environment.

I find a lot of the crapping on the NDP from the right on the issue of the carbon tax as annoying as the NDP opposition to the carbon tax. Many of the people suddenly voicing support in a round about way for the carbon tax are people that were until recently skpetics on climate change. Admittedly the NDP move to be side with the climate skeptics means many borderline climate change skepitcs on the right are now on board with carbon pricing.

The people that have remained rational and reasonable in this debate are:
  • Serious environmentalists like Tseporah Berman
  • Climate change scientists like Andrew Weaver
  • Business people like Jim Hoggan
  • Gordon Campbell and his government
  • Jane Sterk and her party

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