By Medicine Hat News Opinon on August 8, 2018.
No one said it would be easy for the Trudeau government to balance its necessary effort to fight climate change, while continuing to assure everyone that it won’t undermine Canada’s economic success.
But in scaling back one element of the national plan to put a price on carbon, Justin Trudeau managed to weaken an already too tepid program, and hand some provincial premiers — who are determined to oppose any carbon tax — more ammunition to fight in the court of public opinion, never mind, possibly, in the courts of law.
Ontario Environment Minister Rod Phillips got it backwards on Thursday when he suggested that cancelling a carbon tax would “put Canadian jobs and Canadian families first.”
Further, it risks alienating the people who voted for the Liberals, believing in their promise to fight climate change, without any hope of bringing onside those who still prefer not to think about any of this.
That’s a high price to pay to give some industrial heavy emitters an extra break.
Emission-intensive industries that compete with companies in jurisdictions without a carbon tax, were already set to receive credits worth 70 per cent of what an average firm in their sector would pay under Ottawa’s plan.
Now, most won’t have to pay the carbon tax until their emissions reach 80 per cent. And four industries deemed to face particularly high competitive risks — iron and steel manufacturing, cement, lime and nitrogen fertilizer producers — won’t pay until they hit 90 per cent.
It may be, as the government says, a small concession in the overall program that sets a minimum national price for carbon starting at $20 per tonne next year, and rising to $50 by 2022.
But now, instead of continuing to educate the public about why pricing carbon is so necessary, Trudeau and his ministers are busy managing the politics of what looks like a big climbdown.
Already, Phillips is crowing about how this change is proof that his government was right to kill Ontario’s cap-and-trade plan, and right to fight Ottawa’s carbon tax in court.
“The Trudeau government is finally confessing that their carbon tax will invite an economic catastrophe,” he said.
Premier Doug Ford announced last month that he would join Saskatchewan’s court case challenging the federal government’s right to impose a carbon tax, starting in January, on all provinces that don’t enact their own carbon-pricing schemes. Then, a day after news broke about the Trudeau government’s changes, Ontario rushed out to announce that not only would it support Saskatchewan’s case, it would launch its own constitutional court challenge, as well.
“Cancel your carbon tax and put Canadian jobs and Canadian families first,” Phillips said.
For Phillips — as part of Ford’s newly elected Progressive Conservative government — the environment seems to be about politics and little else.
But that’s not the real world. In the real world, not acting on climate change is what will lead to catastrophe. The Trudeau government is putting Canadian jobs and families first by taking measures to curtail the devastating effects of climate change, such as rising sea levels, droughts, fires, flooding and species extinction.
In fact, the Insurance Bureau of Canada said 2016’s record-breaking year of damage caused by natural disasters such as wildfires, floods and ice storms across the country cost $4.9 billion. And that was just in “insurable” damage.
Ford has said he believes climate change is a problem. It’s just not, apparently, a problem he’d care to tackle.
Ford killed the provincial cap-and-trade program created by Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals, which was delivering $1.9 billion a year for environmental programs. And, at a time when he feels justified in cutting back on help for Ontario’s poorest citizens, Ford is only too happy to set aside $30 million to fight Ottawa’s carbon tax.
“In 2018, if you don’t have a climate plan, you don’t have a plan to grow the economy,” Canada’s environment minister Catherine McKenna said. “Our kids and grandkids deserve better.”
She’s not wrong. But her words have more sting when her government isn’t watering down the national plan.
— Toronto Star
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