Ontario PC's right to back a revenue neutral carbon tax
A lot has been made recently of new Ontario PC leader Patrick Brown's support for a revenue neutral carbon tax in Ontario. David Reevely of the Ottawa Citizen has been asking why the Party would take such a position after opposing any carbon pricing for many years?
I think the answer is obvious--you can't win an election if no one takes you seriously.
The Conservative mantra in Canada of ignoring climate science and then denouncing it as false science has fallen flat on its face because its not true. Even if you don't trust scientists (something I don't understand), when 97% of scientists agree that climate change is happening and its man-made, then its time to pay attention. We're not talking about something small, this is a global event akin to Acid Rain in the 1990's which the Mulroney government, along with Regan and Thatcher addressed head on. Three conservative leaders all agreed that Acid Rain was something we needed to stop because it was killing life on earth. Wow, what a concept!
Ontario PC leader Patrick Brown has rightly assessed that if he wants to win the next Ontario provincial election he needs to look voters in the eye and tell them the truth, even if its not something they want to hear. Its not the job of politicians to tell voters one thing and do another. Unfortunately, this is what politics has become in Canada--a series of lies that can't be addressed until the next election because of our extremely flawed First Past the Post electoral system.
Making tough decisions is what we need from our polticians, even decisions that may go against their political partisanship because these decisions are the right thing to do for the majority of people. How many politicians can say they voted for a bill that would hurt their own personal interests? Not many I suspect. But this is what we need. Strong leaders who are not afraid to say, "We made a mistake. There is a better way forward..."
Telling the truth is something the Green Party has been doing for decades. The Greens have been advocating for a revenue neutral carbon tax in Ontario as part of their Green Economy and Sustainability initiatives, not because anyone wants another tax, but because a revenue neutral carbon tax (now called Fee and Dividend by the Green Party) will help ween us off our addiction to fossil fuels while not raising taxes. Its a market driven solution that is simple to understand (unlike Cap and Trade) and is easy for businesses to adjust to. Unlike the Ontario Liberals Cap and Trade program which will require businesses to hire expert consultants to figure it out.
Obviously no one wishes for another tax but something needs to be done to address climate change and break the monopoly the oil and gas industry has on our energy options. Oil is dirty and because its use is so widespread, it is adding to the over-use of carbon and negatively effecting the planet and everything living on it.
One thing that can help is to provide Ontarians with more energy solutions as part of the mix so those people who want to take action, can. For example, I would like to see more individual, independant energy choices that don't require people hooking into the electricity grid. If I can heat and light my home on my own, why would I want to be part of a grid that is just as vulnerable to the whims of Mother Nature as it is to terrorism? If the heat goes off in February all across the province, we're screwed. The ice storm of 1998 that hit Eastern Ontario and Western Quebec should have been enough proof that we are incapable of protecting our electricity grid. But, I digress.
How is it possible to make a tax revenue neutral? By reducing income taxes by the same amount of the carbon tax. The idea is simple and for those people good at math, they will figure out that you can come out on top by reducing your carbon footprint.
The key here is that a revenue neutral carbon tax is temporary. Its temporary because if everyone reduces their carbon footprint as is hoped, the government will end up net-negative. Something governments don't like to be. When this happens we will know the shift away from a carbon based economy has happened and the carbon tax is no longer needed.
It takes a lot of guts to do what Patrick Brown has done. I commend him for showing that he is a politician of the 21st Century--someone who can admit a mistake and who is not afraid to embrace new ideas. Someone who doesn't shy away from doing the right thing for the right reason.
We need more politicians like Patrick Brown in this country.