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British Columbia Experts assess B.C. Green Party’s plans for ‘green economy’

Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver gets out of a vehicle to stop to talk to reporters outside a campaign stop by NDP Leader John Horgan in Nanaimo, B.C., on Friday.

DARRYL DYCK/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver wants to go from a one-man band in the B.C. legislature to something bigger, although he's been cautious in saying how many seats he'd like to see his party win.

Instead, he's talked about the momentum he's encountered on the campaign trail, the virtues of Green Party candidates and the Green Party platform.

That document includes measures to create a "green economy" as well as proposals related to education, health care and mental health and addictions.

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Costs are covered, too. The Green Party says it would balance the budget over a four-year mandate, using revenues from an increased carbon tax and other sources.

The Globe and Mail asked economists to weigh in on the plan.

The Green Party is "much more serious about environmental policy than the NDP or Liberals," said James Brander, a professor at UBC's Sauder School of Business.

Current research suggests environmental policies should incorporate a driving tax, a carbon tax and transit funding – all of which are covered in the Green Party platform, Prof. Brander says.

But he doesn't like other proposals outlined in the platform, such as half-price ferry fares for electric vehicles, saying such measures add unnecessary complication and are difficult to implement successfully.

(The reduced ferry fares are among "possible initiatives" the Green Party lists to promote choices with a lower-carbon footprint.)

Asked about whether the platform is fully costed, Prof. Brander noted that the party's proposals – like those of the Liberals and the NDP – are based on projections.

"They are all made up and they are all optimistic – that is not a criticism of the Greens, that's true of all parties," he said.

The Green Party platform calls for covering increased expenditures through a number of actions, including personal and corporate taxes, a "tax shift," a carbon tax and tax-restructuring initiatives.

It is difficult to determine whether the additional revenues that would result from such sources could cover the programs outlined in the Green platform, Prof. Brander said.

Keith Head, also a professor at UBC's Sauder School of Business, singled out the Green Party's carbon-tax plan as the centrepiece of its platform.

"Economists have remarkably high agreement that the best way to fight climate change is for as many jurisdictions as possible to implement broad-based, gradually escalating carbon taxes," Prof. Head said in an e-mail.

"The Green Party platform very much embraces this approach. We see an end to the BC Liberals' freeze on the carbon tax and a series of $10-a-tonne increases. Also, categories of emissions that were not covered start being taxed," he added.

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"One can argue about how meaningful it is for B.C. to proceed alone in the fight against climate change. However, if that is the direction voters want to go, then doing it via carbon taxes is the best approach. It sends the right incentives to all economic actors and it also raises revenue that can be used to help pay for the Greens' aggressive plans to expand public transport," Prof. Head said.

During the campaign, parties have sparred over the costs of various programs and commitments.

The Liberal Party commissioned a report that looked at the NDP's platform. That report, released in April, found the "NDP fiscal plan embodies the same degree of prudence as the Liberal budget" but flagged several revenue-raising proposals – including a growing economy – as "questionable" and concluded that the NDP platform was "not financially viable."

The NDP dismissed the report, saying it was based on premises that were not part of the NDP platform.

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