Cameron Wigmore, Green Party Member: A Carbon Tax, the Arts and the Canadian Taxpayers Federation

December 13, 2007

A Carbon Tax, the Arts and the Canadian Taxpayers Federation

There is a point where ideology can exceed common sense, and one might wonder if that is happening with the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.

One month ago Maureen Bader, BC director of the CTF, came out against arts funding stating that government subsidies to the arts should be abolished. Bader sees the arts as business activity, but it is more appropriate to compare investment in the arts with investment in things like parks and recreation. Perhaps Bader isn't aware of the difference between investments and subsidies.

According to a 2001-02 Statistics Canada report, with an investment of $6.8 billion from three levels of government, the arts and culture sector directly employed 740,000 people and generated $26 billion for the economy. I'm sure Bader doesn't want to hurt our economy, so it might be that she just doesn't understand the concept of EROI (economic return on investment).

Then Maureen Bader misrepresented carbon taxes while making fun of global warming 'theorists' <--(her term).

Poverty is a serious concern, and Bader's use of the issue to breed fear of a carbon tax is misleading. By suggesting that we imagine carbon taxes "so high that people can't afford to heat their homes in the winter" in the opening of her missive entitled The Carbon Tax Poverty Effect, she tries to scare us out of using critical thinking to examine the situation. By listing "global warming theorists" as beneficiaries of a carbon tax, Bader manages to question the reality of climate change while suggesting that public concerns about climate change are somehow preyed upon by scientists for financial gain. Ridiculous! This suggestion seems more like a call from Bader to question the science of climate change than a sincere concern for Canadians living in poverty.

It is irresponsible of Bader to haphazardly dismiss the seriousness of climate change, and by conflating the subject with poverty she leads the reader to conclude that action on climate change in the form of a carbon tax will invariably lead to widespread poverty. It's also irresponsible to dismiss the concept of a carbon tax without first investigating how it could be implemented correctly, or why many respected economists support the idea.

Only one national political party is calling for a carbon tax and suggesting that the revenue be used in part to reduce income and payroll taxes, as well as kick start green energy industries. This tax shift can be as close to revenue neutral as we want, and Canadians can decide for themselves if they wish to spend their tax savings in ways that reduce or increase carbon emissions and climate change.

In the absence of tax shifting, a carbon tax would likely impose a higher cost on some people than on others, in particular those who cannot afford to upgrade their energy efficiency or who have no alternative to driving long distances. The Green Party would use tax shifting in a way that provides equivalent tax breaks to such people, so that they would not suffer economic hardship. We cannot afford to dismiss the use of carbon taxes, and using tax shifting to achieve fairness is a way to make it work.

More reading:

Arts ire for canadian taxpayers federation

Is the Canadian Taxpayers Federation Right-Wing?

Canadian Taxpayer Federation being Dishonest with Canadians

Get The Prices Right (on tax shifting and GPC policy)

Green Tax Shift will protect Canadians against gas price shocks, says Green Party

Video: Dr. Mark Jaccard talks about carbon taxes

Carbon Tax FAQ

from the link above:
Q: Won’t low income and rural people be hardest hit by a carbon tax?

* In the absence of tax shifting, a carbon tax would impose a higher cost on some people than on others, in particular those who cannot afford to upgrade their energy efficiency or who have no alternative to driving long distances.
* The Green Party would use tax shifting in a way that provides equivalent tax breaks to such people, so that they would not suffer economic hardship.
* We as a society cannot afford to dismiss the use of carbon taxes. It’s much better to use tax shifting to achieve fairness.

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UPDATE (Feb 21st, 2008) Click here for a good blog post on the new BC carbon tax by Vancouver Island federal Green Party candidate Brian Gordon.


Cameron W said...

Here's a link to a great blog post and discussion about the BC carbon tax at the federal Green Party site:

Now that BC has introduced a carbon tax in their budget, a couple of people have said things like 'our collective asses have been kicked', or 'the Green Party has failed', or that we are seen as 'irrelevant and can't get elected now'.

I disagree on all statements. It's not decided until the election is over and the ballots are counted, and the Green Party has time to work to make sure the public understands why the Green Party isn't entirely happy with this green-washed budget and why it's still very relevant and important to have Green Party representation in government.

I think there are two main groups of people regarding a carbon tax: those who don't know much about it and don't really care, and those who do. Of the ones who don't, I think a large percentage of that group doesn't vote, but the ones who do will probably vote their party lines anyway. Of the ones who do care what's going on, I think the Green Party has nothing to worry about. The BC government has produced a budget of half measures that is weak on post secondary education, strong on tax funding for roads (how green is that?!?) and full of other problems.

If people are following the carbon tax story, they'll know that economists are calling for a higher level than the BC Libs have committed to, and that the Green Party is the political party that is in tune with both the public and the science.
I'm glad the BC government is trying to move in the right direction, but I don't think their 'green-washing' will fool many (if any) Green Party supporters.

When asked what makes the Green Party policies worth voting for, I often turn to the concept of sustainability. There is so much to discuss on that point that I could talk (or write) for hours. The main points are that the old line political parties see the environment as a subset of the economy, meaning that they think the environment is a tool to be used to further the economy, while in fact it's the other way around, and only the Green Party builds its policies with that understood. The economy (and civilization!) is dependent on environmental sustainability, and right now we are far from sustainability. As you probably know, if every person on the planet consumed and wasted at the rate that we do in North America, we would need at least THREE EARTHS for it to be sustainable. For us to try to continue our wasteful lifestyles under this consumption based economy here in North America and say it's 'green' is laughable. I think the Green Party needs to continue to get the message out that they are calling for policies that lead to sustainability, will save Canadians money (through energy conservation measures, more efficient methods of transportation, etc), will assign a proper value to the environment that sustains us, and will improve upon the quality of life for everyone.

The BC government has tried to copy the federal Green Party's carbon tax policy, even down to the point where they will shift taxes off of 'good' things like income and onto 'bads' like energy consumption, gas and whatnot. Theirs is a 'carbon tax light', and while I hope it's effective, the way they are implementing it might not work to effect the change intended.

The old line political parties see the economy as the bottom line, and they have failed in their accounting because they have not properly valued ecosystems and their inherent value. For them the environment is a 'resource' or a 'tool' to create financial wealth, but the natural wealth in ecosystems (aquifers & natural water treatment, forests that clean the air, healthy oceans that give us food, etc) isn't given proper value. Our government has allowed industry and the public to continue to skirt the issue of lost environmental wealth, but the loss of sustainability and financial loss is beginning to come back to cost MORE through climate change, dead zones in the oceans, polluted or depleted aquafers that must be replaced by expensive water treatment plants, etc.

Full cost accounting (google 'EFR - ecological fiscal reform) is needed in order for us to really move towards a sustainable society. While the old line parties continue to green wash, only the Green Party is stating that we need to strengthen our economy by preserving the environment, that we need to reduce consumption and that green technologies can be the economy of the future.

I say let the other political parties borrow bits and pieces of Green Party policy in an attempt to green wash themselves. Maybe they'll actually bring in some good policies, based on the Green Party's social, environmental or fiscal policies. We all win when the government actually gets greener, and the Green Party gets to brag that even without yet having elected representation we are pressuring the government to change it's ways. Imagine what will happen when we get a few Greens in government!

As for the Greens possibly being seen as irrelevant now that the BC government has green washed itself, I think the voting public is smarter than that. Also, the Green Party is the only party that is governed by a set of values, and the platform and policies that cover all issues is becoming well known. Most people know that the Green Party is about more than just the environment, and if they don't, it's up to the Green Party to organize and get the message out.

Cameron W said...

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The politics of carbon taxes - Ottawa Citizen

A great long article. Worth the read. A couple of highlights:

"...It's been three days since the government of British Columbia announced it would impose a carbon tax and there are still no reports of civil unrest. No rioters roaming the streets of Kitsilano. No enraged snowboarders smashing up Whistler. No mobs in Victoria blazing a path of destruction to the provincial legislature...

...But Stephen Harper refuses to consider a carbon tax. His environment minister, John Baird, says it would kill the economy, steal bread from the mouths of children, and have us all living in caves.

Not true says Mark Jaccard, the Simon Fraser University economist who is the country's leading expert on the subject. As long as a carbon tax is off-set with equivalent reductions in other taxes, it need not harm the economy. Properly done, such a tax shift would actually encourage things we want more of -- investment, employment, innovation -- while steadily diminishing the carbon emissions we want less of.

All to the good, one would think. But Mr. Baird has ignored Mr. Jaccard, even though Mr. Jaccard's conclusions are contained in a report his own ministry commissioned -- and despite the fact that Mr. Baird cited Mr. Jaccard's expert opinion on related matters when it suited the government's political goals.

Of course, politics is what this is all about. Carbon taxes kill careers, Stephen Harper believes. So forget about it..."

Cameron W said...

Carbon report says tax could save Canadians money

2nd link to same story as above.

Tories reject latest carbon tax proposal

Cameron W said...

June 18th, 2008

GPC Carbon Tax Plan

Carbon Tax Shifting
How will a carbon tax affect Canadian families?

The Green Party’s vision for Canada includes a variety of measures designed to make taxation greener while at the same time help seniors, low-income Canadians and stay-at-home parents. The most significant policy innovation in the Green Party’s platform is to transform how taxes are collected in Canada through what is called a “Carbon Tax Shifting.” In essence, the Green Party believes that carbon emissions, along with other pollutants, should be taxed. The windfall will be used to decrease payroll taxes, allow income splitting, support seniors and help low-income Canadians.

While the price of carbon intensive items like gasoline, electricity and heating fuel will rise with a carbon tax, other taxes will fall to compensate. As a result, the overall effect of the Green Party’s carbon tax shift will generally be neutral. But with carbon taxed more heavily, Canadians can reduce the taxes they pay by switching to fuels that are less carbon intensive and by taking measures to increase energy efficiency in other areas. When Canadians act to reduce the amount of carbon tax they pay, they will simultaneously help to fight climate change by reducing Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions...