It’s encouraging to hear someone in the upper reaches of the Canadian establishment recognize reality. Ruling on the appeal by Alberta, Ontario and Saskatchewan against the federal carbon tax, the Supreme Court stated, “Climate change is real. It is caused by greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions resulting from human activities, and it poses a grave threat to humanity’s future.”
Furthermore, the Court pointed out the obvious, that GHG emissions are predominantly international in their character and implications, thus “Any province’s failure to act threatens Canada’s ability to meet its international obligations, which in turn hinders Canada’s ability to push for international action to reduce GHG emissions. Therefore, a provincial failure to act directly threatens Canada as a whole.”
The Court went on to declare that this meant the crisis passed the threshold test for a matter of national concern and therefore a national approach was justified. And would that in turn justify a carbon tax? Well, in the Court’s words, “There is also a broad consensus among expert international bodies that carbon pricing is a critical measure for the reduction of GHG emissions.” So yes, the federal carbon tax is justified.
The Court’s decision did a lot more than OK the tax. It made a strong statement about the threat of climate change and the need for drastic measures to deal with it.
The Court also indicated to the recalcitrant provinces the way forward. If you don’t like the federal tax, do what most provinces have done and set your own. Alberta, for example, had a carbon tax that met the federal standard, but then the UCP gained power and shrunk the tax to deal only with major emitters. Fuels were no longer included so, as expected, we are now subject to the federal tax. Kenney and friends, consistent with their reckless approach to economic policy, in effect transferred control of the tax from Alberta to the feds. The Court has now given the UCP a mighty hint. Take back control. Reinstate the former tax on fuels and then Edmonton collects the money and decides how it is spent, not Ottawa.
And there’s a decent pot of money to spend. According to University of Calgary economist Trevor Tombe, by 2022 the taxes will be worth $2.4-billion a year. After deducting say a sixth for rebates to low-income households, the province would have $2-billion to spend on green projects or even to shrink the deficit.
So for God’s sake, Mr. Kenney, take the money. Stop the grandstanding. Restore the pre-UCP version of our carbon tax. You can always blame it on the feds.