British Columbia's carbon tax has proven it is possible to fight global warming while still growing the economy, and the rest of Canada should sign up.
That was the message from B.C. Premier Christy Clark when she visited Toronto on Monday and met with her Ontario counterpart, Kathleen Wynne, as the provinces prepare to negotiate what could be a major climate-change pact in the new year.
"It's a very simple price instrument to use – that's the thing about a carbon tax. The best way to change behaviour is to affect pricing. It's a pure, simple, unadulterated way to go about it," Ms. Clark told The Globe and Mail's editorial board. "I hope all the provinces across Canada decide they want to jump on the bandwagon."
B.C.'s tax has driven the province's greenhouse gas emissions down by 16 per cent. In force since 2008, it levies $30 on every tonne of carbon – about seven cents, for instance, on a litre of gasoline. In that time, the province's economy and population have grown faster than the national average. The B.C. government cut income and other taxes to ensure the overall burden remains the same.
"All of the naysayers who suggested that a carbon tax was going to be an economic disaster have been proven wrong in British Columbia," Ms. Clark said.
Ontario has dithered for the past six years. While the government theoretically favours putting a price on carbon, it has repeatedly referred the matter for study instead of setting up a system. Ontario Environment Minister Glen Murray is leading another study, and has promised to come up with a climate-change strategy next year.
Ms. Clark and Ms. Wynne discussed climate change in an afternoon meeting at Queen's Park on Monday. Sources familiar with the closed-door chat said Ms. Wynne appears seriously interested in pricing carbon.
At the United Nations climate-change conference in Peru earlier in the day, Ontario, B.C., Quebec and California signed an agreement in principle to work together on cutting emissions. Quebec and California run a joint cap-and-trade system, a different way to put a price on emissions.
Ontario is hoping a national energy strategy to be hammered out in the spring by provincial and territorial premiers will contain an agreement for all jurisdictions to curb emissions. Such an agreement would touch industries across the country, from manufacturing in Ontario to oil extraction in Alberta and Saskatchewan.
"If Alberta, for example, and Quebec, work with us on deep reductions on forestry, mining and buildings, and we can get deep reductions there, then you can have the conversation about what kind of oil production and what kind of oil movement work within those restraints," Mr. Murray said last week.
Ms. Clark said her province will not increase its carbon tax until other jurisdictions adopt similar measures. But she said she hopes that will happen.
"In every province, people will say, 'We're unique.' … But every province can still find a way to do it," she said. "Some provinces have a bigger manufacturing base. Some provinces have the oil sands. Some provinces have really slow and declining economies. There are ways to do this in all those different economies if you're committed to doing it. It really is only a matter of political will."