Premier Christy Clark and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau attend first ministers' meeting in Vancouver last week.

BC VIEWS: Premiers do the carbon shuffle

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau declares victory, George W. Bush-style, as premiers reject his promised national carbon price

Premier Christy Clark had her dancing shoes on as yet another “climate change” meeting ended in disarray in Vancouver last week.

“This is not the end,” Clark assured reporters after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the premiers emerged with no agreement on a national minimum carbon price. No kidding.

Trudeau declared victory by announcing the unanimous consent to a “Vancouver Declaration,” which basically pays lip service to the concept of “carbon pricing” and kicks another grand federal election promise down the road.

[Vancouver Declaration here. Its first promise is to “increase the level of ambition.” No kidding.]

As the rest headed for jets waiting at Vancouver airport, Clark expressed the hope that the public would say “they got together and they made progress.” Did they? Let’s take a look.

Going into the Whistler-Vancouver stop on Trudeau’s globe-trotting glamour tour, Clark correctly noted that it’s other provinces that need to make progress. B.C. has a clear price on carbon emissions; it’s been held at $30 a tonne since Clark succeeded its creator, Gordon Campbell.

Clark’s advice for other premiers is to follow Campbell’s example of a revenue-neutral carbon tax, offset by income tax reductions. You won’t build public support for a carbon tax that makes people poorer, she said.

Of course that’s what Alberta is doing, at a time when many residents are getting poorer already. Alberta’s NDP government plans to match the rate of B.C.’s carbon tax within two years and spend the proceeds.

Other premiers have more creative definitions for pricing carbon.

Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil pointed to transmission lines and power purchases from the Muskrat Falls dam under construction in Labrador, to substitute hydro for coal-fired power. The highest electricity prices in Canada are their “carbon pricing” plan.

Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall pointed to SaskPower’s Boundary Dam carbon capture and storage project. It is the world’s first coal-fired power station to capture carbon dioxide after combustion. The CO2 is sold to oilfield operators who inject it into declining wells to push more oil out, and the project intends to capture sulphur dioxide and fly ash to process and sell for other industrial uses.

Wall is the only Canadian leader to state a couple of inconvenient truths. The purpose of this exercise is to reduce carbon emissions, not to raise tax revenues. And now is the worst possible time to impose more taxes on the oil and gas industry.

Clark’s stand-pat strategy on the B.C. carbon tax is going to change this year, as positioning begins for the 2017 election. A B.C. government advisory panel has recommended a 33 per cent increase, conveniently starting in 2018, with annual increases after that.

The current seven-cent-per-litre carbon tax on gasoline sold in B.C. is hardly a deterrent these days, as pump prices have tumbled and could stay low for years to come. And with a fragile economy, it seems unlikely that a big boost in carbon taxes will find favour with voters a year from now.

The B.C. NDP is trying to rebuild its credibility on climate policy. NDP leader John Horgan tried to revise the party’s history, claiming in year-end interviews that the NDP didn’t oppose the carbon tax, only making it revenue neutral rather than spending the money on green initiatives, as Alberta wants to do.

Alas, the NDP’s “axe the tax” campaign going into the 2009 election is a matter of record. The party’s election platform warned that Campbell’s plan “increases taxes for average families by tripling the gas tax” to its current level.

Last week the NDP issued a news release denouncing Clark for presiding over increasing greenhouse gas emissions.

Tom Fletcher is B.C. legislature reporter and columnist for Black Press. Email: tfletcher@blackpress.ca Twitter: @tomfletcherbc

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Provincial COVID-19 data can now be used for B.C. to prepare for a second wave

In the past week, B.C. has seen a slight spike in daily test-positive case counts

Child falls down Bridal Veil Falls near Chilliwack, crews on scene

An 11-year-old boy fell over the falls about 25 to 30 feet and has suffered a head injury

Agassiz Return-It Depot slated for modernization

Soon, no more sorting alcohol and non-alcohol containers, Return-It says

LETTER: Thank you, OK Tire Agassiz!

Roger Bjaanes of Harrison Hot Springs applauds some great customer service

LETTER: An unforgettable birthday

Grace Storteboom of Agassiz thanks everyone for an amazing birthday

Islanders want BC Ferries to follow order that lets residents board before tourists

For ferry-dependent communities, ferries are often the sole practical lifeline to work, school or medical appointments.

Fraser Valley loses the Keith Wilson Waver as Ron Hupper passes away

Hupper brought smiles to the faces of hundreds of people traveling Chilliwack’s Keith Wilson Road

Beverly Hills 90210 star’s family selling Vancouver Island Beach Resort

You can own Jason Priestley’s Terrace Beach Resort in Ucluelet for less than $5 million

Genetic detectives begin work to trace spread of COVID-19 in Canada

The kinds of genetic technology being used for this project did not exist when SARS hit Canada in 2003

Sports fishers protest Fraser River Chinook closures

Public Fishery Alliance wants hatchery fish open for harvest

Woman sexually assaulted, robbed near Surrey SkyTrain station: RCMP

Police say the incident happened July 10, just after 11 p.m. near King George SkyTrain station

B.C. Ferries increasing passenger capacity after COVID-19 restrictions

Transport Canada 50-per-cent limit being phased out, no current plans to provide masks

Once-in-a-lifetime comet photographed soaring over Abbotsford

Photographer Randy Small captures Comet NEOWISE in early-morning sky

Most Read