Friday, October 10, 2008

Liberal admits Carbon Tax won't reduce emissions

H/T Bourque Newswatch

Liberal candidate Bob Friesen made a startling admission this week during Manitoba's only televised federal election campaign debate.

I was on the media panel for the debate and was surprised to hear Friesen admit his own party's carbon tax plan might not result in households reducing their greenhouse gas emissions.

The former turkey farmer, who is running in Charleswood-St. James-Assiniboia against Tory incumbent Steven Fletcher, was trying to explain how his party's carbon tax would help reduce emissions in Canada.

The whole purpose of the plan is to reduce emissions by "putting a price on carbon."

Friesen used all the scripted buzz words like how we have to put a tax on pollution in order to reduce our output and how -- inexplicably -- all Canadians would be better off financially.

Unfortunately for Friesen, when you drill down on the issue and examine how it would actually affect an average family, the plan falls apart.

It falls apart because the taxes imposed on a family would likely have little to no effect on the amount of greenhouse gases they emit. It wouldn't change their behaviour.

It's something even Friesen, after I pressed him on the issue, admitted to.

"It might not change behaviour," Friesen acknowledged during the debate.

Well, if it's not going to change behaviour, then it's just a straight tax grab.

According to the Liberal's Green Shift plan, an average Canadian family who heats their home with natural gas would pay up to $266 a year in carbon taxes on their gas bill.


I asked Friesen how that would encourage families in Winnipeg -- who already lower their thermostats at night and already have well-insulated homes -- to use less natural gas.

They have to heat their homes.

And if they have to a pay a $22-a-month carbon tax, they're still going to heat their homes. There's not much they can do to change behaviour.

Friesen agreed. Which means the plan doesn't work.

Even if you accept the Liberal's argument they would cut income taxes by an equal amount, the plan still doesn't work because it doesn't reduce emissions.

If you raise a consumption tax by $266 and cut income taxes by $266, all you've done is taken money from one pocket and put it into another.

And you haven't reduced emissions.

Besides, the Liberal's numbers don't even add up.

They claim an average family would pay about $250 a year from the carbon tax. But on natural gas alone, the party estimates the average household would pay between $228 and $266. Well, that brings the household to an average of $247 before including all the other carbon taxes.

For example, the carbon tax would be applied to diesel. So everything that gets shipped by truck -- which is almost everything -- will go up in price. If you drive a diesel vehicle, your price is going up. If you live in the north where transportation costs are already high, a carbon tax would see prices soar further.

And your bus pass would go up, too.

Under the Liberal plan you would pay a 95-cent carbon tax on a 20-pound tank of propane. Again, it's not going to make you have fewer BBQs. It's simply a straight tax.

Electricity costs would also go up under the carbon tax. The carbon tax would be applied to coal, which generates a lot of Canada's electricity.

But it would also apply in provinces like Manitoba, which still relies on natural gas and coal as backups to hydro power.

The upshot is a carbon tax would cost an average Canadian household much more than $250 a year.

And it wouldn't result in fewer emissions.

Even Bob Friesen understands that.

You can watch him on Shaw Cable Channel 9 Sunday at 6 p.m. during a rebroadcast.

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