Listen Up! Being against a carbon tax is not the same as denying climate change



Hugh Mackenzie
Huntsville Doppler

An alternate view on carbon tax

A week or two ago I mentioned that anyone who didn’t believe that climate change was real, was stupid. Strong words perhaps, but I meant them then and I mean them now. However, that does not mean that I have bought into the carbon tax that the Trudeau Government is imposing on everyone, because I haven’t. Part of the problem here is that the Federal Government and others who support and promote a carbon tax, are perpetuating a myth that if you don’t support it, you are denying the reality of climate change. And if you deny climate change, you must be a Conservative. Good politics maybe, but simply not true.

In fact, some people, including myself, are concerned that this tax will actually have a dilatory effect. “Well I’m paying a carbon tax; I’m doing my bit for climate change and the environment.” Not nearly enough and probably not all that effective. People will still buy gas. To them it is just another tax and until effective alternatives are actually in place, they really don’t have a choice, other than to fill up. This is especially true in rural areas like ours, where there are limited transportation options. In addition, if you believe the Government (and that is a big if), when they say they will rebate the revenue they gain from the carbon tax, it means not a penny goes into actually addressing the problem.

Pollution in all forms is the major cause of climate change. Carbon is no doubt a big pollutant, but it is not the only one. Furthermore, taxing people is not an effective deterrent. Tobacco, booze and now weed, are taxed to the hilt and yet people still smoke, imbibe and enjoy a toke. In fact, gasoline, is already heavily taxed and most people will simply see the increase as one more grab at their wallet.

There must be another way to deal with unacceptable levels of carbon and the more I think about it, the more I believe a much better solution than taxing the little guy, is enforcement and new technology. The Government should set a standard for carbon emissions, especially for large companies, one that recognizes we cannot reach an acceptable carbon level over night and one that allows our economy to survive. But nevertheless, one that forces carbon-using industries to reduce their outputs and develop technology to replace their need for carbon emissions.

Someone no doubt will tell me the government is already doing this. Well if they are, it isn’t working. The trick, as it should be with all environmental issues, is enforcement. Companies who expose more carbon to the elements than is lawful or who refuse to adapt to alternate available technology, should themselves be exposed. No SNC-Lavalin treatment and no checking to see which political party they donate to. They should be criminally charged, heavily fined or jailed and if necessary, put out of business.  The fines should be huge, and funds realized, invested in new technology to reduce the rate of climate change. Yes, some of that is  happening now, but not nearly fast enough and not at a product price the average consumer can afford.

As I alluded to earlier, one of the reasons I think a carbon tax on gasoline is the wrong way to go is that it allows people to believe they are resolving pollution issues when at best they are addressing only a part of the problem. Take plastics for example. There is plenty of evidence that they are having a serious effect on the environment and this includes killing wildlife. Yet, what are we doing about that? Not much.

Much of the problem related to plastics, also relates to littering and littering is a huge issue when it comes to the environment. April is a dirty month in this part of the world. Once the snow disappears it is a real eye opener to see what crap is left on the ground.

In a recent commentary on Doppler, Jodie Dynes, put her finger on it when she complained of people dumping their garbage where it shouldn’t be. They just don’t give a damn what happens to it as long as they don’t have to look after it. One sees too much of this, especially during the summer and fall seasons.

This is another area where I believe enforcement and really heavy fines are the answer. If it takes more cameras and increased law enforcement, so be it. I am not a believer in big government, but I do believe that health, education and a clean environment should be the top three priorities of any provincial or federal jurisdiction. And to date, I have not seen a comprehensive Environmental Plan from either the provincial or federal governments. Knee-jerk taxes just don’t cut it.

If we are really serious about cleaning up our environment and slowing down the pace of climate change, then go after the perpetrators and go after them hard and play no favorites. Use the money you get from that to develop pollution-friendly technologies.  But don’t take it out on the little guys, most of whom respect the environment and who are simply trying to get through life and make ends meet. The carbon tax is just another burden they don’t need and it also ducks the real problem.

That is why I am against it.

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  1. Andrea Smith on

    We had a cap and trade system under the previous provincial government which was taking a similar approach to what you’re recommending. Large companies had to meet carbon standards or pay to exceed them, and those funds were then invested into fighting climate change. If we’d kept cap and trade then we wouldn’t have the carbon tax. But the Ford government decided to scrap it.

  2. Henk Rietveld on

    Thanks, Hugh.
    As usual, well considered comments. Would that more people, especially in government would take a similar view. We’d all be better for it.

  3. Danielle Laperriere on

    As Andrea has already pointed out, the solution you suggest (i.e. “[t]he Government should set a standard for carbon emissions, especially for large companies, one that recognizes we cannot reach an acceptable carbon level over night and one that allows our economy to survive. But nevertheless, one that forces carbon-using industries to reduce their outputs and develop technology to replace their need for carbon emissions”), is the essence of a Cap and Trade system. A Cap and Trade system is what the previous Ontario government had put in place, and what the Ford government scrapped out knowing full well the province would then be forced to adopt the Federal carbon price as soon as they opted out of the existing system. However, the rhetoric of the Conservative governments across the country, be it provincial or federal, have tossed all carbon pricing mechanisms under the dirty word “tax” and painted all solutions with the same brush for the general public.

    There are a lot of ways to address climate change, and we are certainly not doing enough, but a pricing mechanism on carbon is an extremely effective way to get the ball moving more quickly. In Ontario’s previous Cap & Trade system, the funds raised from cap and trade were going into things like energy efficiency retrofits for schools and hospitals, a clean tech innovation funds for our entrepreneurs to develop solutions to industries that currently have no alternative to their carbon-intensive processing systems (think concrete and steel). There were also rebates for the “little guys” including supports for energy efficiency home retrofits, purchasing an electric vehicle (Have you seen Hyundai of Muskoka’s Kona driving around?), and supports for renters who can’t control what their landlord invests in to make their rental more efficient. This was a robust and complete plan to address what will remain the biggest challenge we’ve ever faced. It wasn’t perfect, but it sure is better than what we have now.

    I like many others would love to do more on my own, but the truth of the matter is I tend not to really care about something until it hurts my pocket book. I don’t think I’m alone. We need climate change to hit our pocket books, because if it doesn’t the harm it causes will continued to be externalized. We’ll pay more in municipal storm water management, but will not equate those additional dollars to the impacts of climate change. So I’m happy to have a price on carbon, it helps me make more informed decisions and changes my habits. But I’d be much happier if we had a robust plan at the provincial level, much like what our previous government had put in place. Let’s stop fighting about a “tax” and start thinking about where we want to invest to curb climate change, because we desperately need it.

  4. With respect, many of your suggestions are indeed the goal of carbon pricing or a cap and trade system (which Ontario had). It is not a “tax on the little guy”. It’s about implementing regulations and taxes on the largest industry polluters that contribute to climate change. It’s also about stimulating industry to invest in greener solutions for themselves and investing in new technologies for consumers. And it is indeed working in Canada—take a look at the success BC has had with carbon pricing over the past decade. Don’t take my word for it, leading economists around the world say carbon pricing is the best global solution to address this critical issue. And time is running out.

  5. No matter what you call it, carbon tax or cap and trade the cost is
    always taken from the pockets of the middle class and poor.
    Big business always finds a way around or out. Never costs them cent.

  6. Hugh Holland on

    This is a very complex problem and there is no single solution. The first step is to eliminate electricity from coal. Ontario did that without any form of carbon tax. They just did it. But transportation is now Ontario’s biggest source of emissions followed by buildings and they need to be addressed a different way. To avoid the worst effects of climate change, we will need every tool in the toolbox. And the carbon tax is the only tool with the potential to engage every sector of business and society. Arguing that the other guy should go first is as futile as arguing over the deck chairs on the Titanic. But just like the tax on tobacco, many will respond, but the carbon tax will not stop some from self destruction.

  7. Sometime I just have to throw my hands up in the air and scream, “You just don’t get it”.

    Taxes, caps, whatever you want to call it or however you want to paint it isn’t the answer. “Sticking it to the big guys” or taxing large corporations will not solve your problems.

    Step back and look at the big picture.
    Who do you really think these “big” guys are. Its all part of the big circle.
    You buy toilet paper? You buy dish soap? You buy a package of cookies at the grocery store recently?

    Well if you think taxing a big corporation is going to solve your problems it won’t because they will just turn around and increase their prices to cover their costs and it comes out of the little guys pockets. That’s you and me.

    If you increase their costs too much they move overseas and take their jobs with them. This is not the answer.

    The answer is to REWARD good behavior. Provide positive incentives to corporations and individuals that reduce their carbon footprint. Provide rebates and tax incentives.

    I can hear some of you already murmuring, “ya, so the rich get richer”. No, it is not so. Those savings will go back into investments into the company making them more efficient and allowing reductions in pricing making those companies MORE competitive so that they can sell more product, cheaper than their competition who is not as green. It will drive companies that are not environmentally friendly out of the market.

    Everyone wins. Companies sell more product, consumer gets cheaper goods, environment is better taken care of.

    Think, its simple math. It doesn’t have to be complicated.

  8. Charles Wilson on

    I suppose it was inevitable that someone would make a virtue out of the failure to deny climate change. But did it have to happen in your editorial columns?

    Great, so now it’s official, we have climate change. It’s created by carbon emissions and carbon emissions are caused in part by human activity. This human activity creates a greenhouse gas effect which in turn melts permafrost tundra and warms sea water which causes more carbon emissions (much more) and so it goes. Rachel Carson told us most of this sixty years ago. Nothing new to see here folks.

    So three questions, first are we past the point of no return, as many suggest, in which case we should just all enjoy our last few years before humans joins the 98 per cent of planet earth’s other species which have already become extinct and if we are not past that point do we actually want to do anything but talk about it and finally if we want to do something about it do we want to do it collectively or individually?

    If the answer is we are already screwed, then we can skip question 2, saving “ye ed’s” grey cells for important things like bridge tourneys, local flooding alerts and downtown hotel tax scams, and go directly to Q.3 which under that scenario answers itself; build your own ark.

    Nothing in my life (Most of the 20th century and this entire one so far) has persuaded me humans have learned a thing from our past so for me it’s Q.3, build that ark. I don’t mean floating around like Noah looking for some damned pigeon, I mean find a spot in the world you can defend against all comers and survive come hell or high-water — literally.

    To pick your spot, and remember all you are seeking to do is to survive longer than anybody else, not survive for ever, you need a politically stable place with a strong army already in place. You need surrounding humans complacent enough, that means content with their own lot enough, to tolerate your quirky nonsense and you need to be away from fault lines and naturally extreme weather spots. The political stability will only last so long and the army just slightly longer, then you’re reliant upon whatever natural defences are available to you. The model, oddly enough is the 12th century Roman catholic church where, amid widespread war, pestilence and servitude, its monasteries were havens of peace and quiet to say nothing of health and food and the surrounding peasants were convinced that supporting this inequity was in their interest. As you will recall this all worked out until the King ran out of money and shut them down and took their land.

    So far we have created virtual monasteries and a tithing system we tolerate on line. Microsoft and others pioneered this. Now it seems we should probably do it actually.

    Monsanto seems to be coming close with its ownership of all the means of sustenance through ownership of genetically modified crops for food stuff we now rely on. To those still reading this who think its all a bit crazy, remember that before reliable met’ offices god (run by the Catholic Church in Europe) was the weather determinate which, in turn, decided in you would eat or starve that year. This, and for no other reason, was the justification for the monasteries. The church realized it couldn’t run the whole thing out of Rome (Silicon Valley) and let franchises to local abbots.

    Monsanto does the same and for the same reason. It not only owns the means of production it actually owns the production itself. All this depends for its continuation upon the rest of us thinking it is in our best interests. It isn’t. But we need to think it is for Monsanto shares to stay stable.

    So it seems the modern ark isn’t really all that much different from the arks of history. And since only private wealth builds arks, we should logically see an intensification of selfish behavior to acquire them. This in turn will hasten the need for arks. I am hoping all this is science fiction or as crackpot as 20th century social credit theories as expounded by Major Douglas, Bible Bill Aberhart, EC Manning and now Preston and his acolyte, Kenny are. I am hoping, but frankly, not expecting.

  9. Kelly.
    Well stated. Excellent opinion.
    The answer is to REWARD good behavior. Provide positive incentives to corporations and individuals that reduce their carbon footprint. Provide rebates and tax incentive.
    Where do these rebates and tax incentives come from? The federal government.
    Tax payers money mainly from the middle class and the poor.
    Last year the 10 biggest corporations in North America earned Billions of dollars in profit.
    The paid income tax yes, but also received large tax refunds form the government. (tax payers money)
    Any rebates and incentives go directly into dividends for stock holders. I have stocks. Don’t you?
    There is any real answer or only greed and profit which is killing the world we live in!

  10. You pay the tax, you get the refund.

    A rational person will seek to minimize the tax to maximize the net refund.

    Behaviors change. It’s simple and has worked in BC for 11 years.The rural urban divide is similar too, but for the majority of the population it works.

    One-sided fear mongering (including gas pump stickers) makes no sense and is a waste of valuable time which should be addressed to the challenges of our impact on the environment, especially in Muskoka and Haliburton where it both brings us such great joy and is a backbone of our economy

    • Peter, see my new article on this topic The tax, at its current size won’t have any material impact.

      BC’s actual performance was not as good as Ontario over the 11 year period 2005 – 2016. In fact, the key measure is CO2/capita, they didn’t even beat the Canadian average (leaving out the carbon-intense oil & gas sector). A small emissions improvement may have happened from a small decline in gas consumption, but it had no significant impact in the big picture of emissions. Note that passenger cars/light trucks account for just 11% of all emissions in Canada today.

  11. I have a different view on this carbon debate First Taxing it will do nothing and I dont think stopping it will do much to stop global warming . What it will help is the pollution problem. And here is the thing Pollution and global warming are not the same thing and should not be linked together. Global warming was happening long before there was much pollution around that being said the pollution may be speeding it up but i have an idea that the amount of heat we generate now all over the world has a lot more to do with it. Just take our little Walmart area in Huntsville and think just how hot the pavement gets in summer and even in winter it emits a lot of heat now if you have lived here for a few years you know that whole area was swampy with long grass and water there most of the year nice and cool all summer. now if this little patch of pavement creates that much heat just think of the big picture around the world with 6 and 8 lane hwy’s and parking lots bigger that the whole town of Huntsville no wonder the world is getting warmer.

  12. Bill Beatty on

    Heads up Folks…The greatest emitter of Green House gases is Factory a Farms . By Far ! Keep arguing over the cause , who’s fault it is and the solution while you eat your massed produced chicken , beef and pork….It’s a choice and remember if your not part of the solution you are part of the problem ! ( Before Hell rains down on me , I am not talking about Family Farms , the proper way to raise meat and dairy ! )…..PS 2 …The Carbon Tax is the latest government Fop to make them appear to be doing “Something ” .

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