Not long after the federal government announced details of its carbon tax rebate plan, Maxime Bernier, founder of the People’s Party of Canada, took to Twitter to render his verdict.
“Libs can only sell their carbon tax if they lie,” Mr. Bernier wrote. “Lie #1: You’ll get your money back. Lie #2: It’s a price on ‘pollution.’”
And there was more.
“CO2 is NOT pollution,” he continued. “It’s what comes out of your mouth when you breathe and what nourishes plants.”
This is a man who came within a whisker of becoming leader of the federal Conservative Party. Think about that. Now he’s making a comparison between greenhouse gases generated by oil projects and cars to the air we expunge with each breath.
If you want a snapshot of the uphill battle this country faces in trying to reduce pollution, there it is in a nutshell. It would be wonderful to think that those types of inane utterances on the most critical issue facing the planet are the domain of only the most ignorant and wilfully blind people in Canada. But unfortunately they are not.
That the government’s rebate plan was mocked and derided by conservatives from coast to coast was not surprising. Just as it was praised by people who actually know something about climate change and the best ways of influencing people’s behaviours to slow it. Noah Kaufman, an economist who studies energy and climate change at Columbia University, told the Washington Examiner that if this country is successful in introducing this measure, it would make Canada “the world’s climate policy leader.”
Even the famous expatriate, Bank of England Governor Mark Carney, chimed in to praise the government for making a move that will, in his words, unlock investment decisions that will make for a low-carbon economy.
Then again, what would he know?
To be sure, a certain amount of skepticism was expected. After all, if you’re handing people money to compensate for the extra carbon tax dollars they are going to have to shell out at the gas station, what is the incentive to drive less? Except that human behaviour tells us many of us will do just that, because it will allow us to save a little for other things. And in the absence of new technologies that will eliminate GHG emissions without any of us having to sacrifice a thing, this is the best hope we have at the moment.
The bigger problem is it’s unlikely to be enough.
The country is not anywhere near on pace to meet our international obligations to reduce emissions by 17 per cent below 2005 levels by 2020. We’re not on track to meet our 2030 targets established under the Paris accord, either – even with a carbon tax.
Add on to that developments across the country that could exacerbate the problem.
We know that climate change is not a priority for Ontario Premier Doug Ford, who is rolling back many of the previous government’s green initiatives. United Conservative Leader Jason Kenney is threatening to do much the same if he becomes premier in Alberta next year – and the odds of that happening look very good at the moment. And then you have B.C., which has been the country’s climate action leader for so long.
The announcement of a major new liquefied natural gas project in northwestern B.C. has the potential to severely undermine the province’s climate objectives. With a thriving LNG industry in the picture, it’s difficult to see how the province meets its goal of cutting emissions 40 per cent below 2007 levels by 2030.
The government is supposed to be unveiling a new, updated climate strategy later this fall. However, it has already hinted at what it will take to accommodate LNG and still meet its emissions pledge. This will mean that hundreds of thousands of British Columbians are going to have to make significant changes in their lives, including everything from switching to electric heat to purchasing electric cars.
To get a perspective on the level of change we’re talking about, Clean Energy Canada has said that nearly a million B.C. drivers would need to replace their current gas (or diesel) guzzler and switch to an electric vehicle to nullify the new pollution that will be generated by the LNG Canada project.
So as progressive as a carbon tax is, it doesn’t solve our emissions problem. Maybe in the end we’ll have consider Mr. Bernier’s insights into the matter and just breathe a little less.