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Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

‘Axe the gas tax,’ says B.C. NDP leader

with 15 comments


Populism? The recent increase in gas prices has been much greater than the new carbon tax will be – and no-one is getting any money back from that except the the oil exporting countries and the producers.

Carol James has decided to listen to people who are grumbling about gas prices – by attacking a shift from other sources of tax to one based on carbon use. Now I cannot say i like the Liberal plan very much, and I do not like the way that it exempts the biggest CO2 emitters. But consumers needed to be given an incentive to change their behaviour and now the market has given them a much bigger one than the tax will.

But perhaps she could also turn this to the issue of social justice, as consumption taxes – as opposed to income taxes – and not as progressive. In other words, they hit the poor harder than the rich. And the way most tax changes have worked in recent years the rich have done exceedingly well whereas the poor are getting poorer.  They may call it “neoconservatism” but it looks just like the old fashioned conservatism that gave us the dirty thirties – and gave birth to the party that eventually became the NDP.

Campbell has not only stolen the Green’s clothes, he has managed to drive a wedge between the two opposition parties. By splitting the anti-Liberal vote he greatly improves his chances of a third term.

But she has also shown herself to be as short sighted as the other conventional politicians. It may now be too late to do anything effective about climate change. We have prevaricated too long. Kyoto wasn’t being implemented and was not enough. Any new agreement looks like being too little too late. But the cost of the coming changes in sea levels will far exceed any imagined impact on the economy.

I wonder which planet Carol is planning on moving to.

Written by Stephen Rees

June 17, 2008 at 4:31 pm

15 Responses

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  1. The NDP need to sell the cap and trade system they are proposing as the alternative to the carbon tax. They need to articulate why their implementation of cap and trade will be better for British Columbians than the BC Liberals’ carbon tax.


    June 17, 2008 at 4:53 pm

  2. You’re right Stephen. This is a let down from the BC NDP. The feds are doing the same thing really, playing for political points with our future health and well being.
    Carole James and her party should have had a plan formulated long ago, they knew this day was coming. There is no point her crying foul if she hasn’t got a better solution.
    I wouldn’t give you ten cents for any idea coming from Gordon Campbell. Fortunately, as you mention, the high price of gas will likely do more to alter our bad habits than a carbon tax.
    I’m sure I’ll be accused of being politically naive but I have felt for a long time that the NDP and Greens ought to make a sincere effort to find enough common ground to form an alliance (probably not the best term in view of the knobs we have running Ottawa at present). Otherwise I think they may continue to split the vote against the Liberals in BC. and the Liberals and Conservatives federally.


    June 17, 2008 at 5:17 pm

  3. The carbon tax is a good thing, but it should not exempt the biggest emitters and the revenue should go towards measures that reduce carbon output. Such a tax would be very sound economically. The environment is something we all hold in common. The Government represents the public’s common interest and is responsible to ensure those interests are protected. If you emit carbon, you should pay a tax that goes towards mitigating the effect of said carbon on society.

    Unfortunately the NDP would rather pander to popular sentiment than take a stand on something that is fundamentally right. The NDP would be more responsible to support a carbon tax, but suggest a better implementation scheme than what the BC Liberals have come up with.

    As for the issue of tax vs. social justice, one should study the tax structure of the Scandinavian countries, who all have high taxes and extensive social safety nets. I was surprised to find out that we pay higher corporate taxes in Canada and the US compared to what is paid in places such as Sweden or Finland. Personal taxes however are much higher than what we have here. Their scheme seems to recognize that whether we like it or not, corporations are the drivers of economic growth and give us all employment to pay for the nicer things in life. Society itself must decide to devote a significant portion of their incomes to the social good. Often, societies that are mature and smart enough to do so, reap the benefits in lower crime rates and a much better educated populace. Corporations take advantage of that populace and employ those well educated citizens who then make enough to give back to society. In other words, forcing corporations to pay does not get us the society we want. Its when the average person sees the benefit of investing their own share into the well being of society that benefits can really be seen and start to pay off.


    June 17, 2008 at 6:45 pm

  4. The “Campbell tax” Its not revenue neutrol, this rising to 8 cents a liter tax will suck tens of millions out of school,hospital,regional goverments budgets and where will that money go?
    It will go to tax cuts for big industry that has been exempted from this tax.low income and pensioners will only lose money(they don`t get tax refunds) –How much is this going to cost to collect,shuffle and re-deal (millions)

    Consumers will be hit with higher gas,heating oil,propane,natural gas,everything moved everything using energy will pass it on to the consumer.

    Campbell sat on bill 37 for months letting it collect dust in the BC legislature only to ram it through in the last hour of the last day of the last session in the legislature in BC along with many other dubious bills,THERE WAS NO DEBATE

    It might be revenue neutrol to goverment not to BCers—-The biggest recipients of tax breaks are the biggest polluters in the province and those big polluters have been exempted from the tax! —-This is a money transfer from low to middle income to large corporations.

    Even if the money went to transit or sequestration or something, this is just political pandering to eco groups that ends up rewarding big polluters!

    Anyone who supports this flim flam scam is a little nuts or naive.
    Campbell states hes lowered taxes,lets examine that fact—-property taxes up,skytrain up,12cents a liter to translink allready in gas tax,BC hydro up–terasan gas up,11%in march–11% more july 1 —ICBC up up even with surpluses—BC ferries up up up—municipal taxes up—msp premiums up up ——seperate water bill—eco fees into general revenue—-park fees up(invented)—Campbell the king of putting 10 dollars in one pocket while absconding with 50 out of the other.

    I heard Campbell on the radio today defending the “Campbell tax” he went on to say that because there was no carbon tax in the nineties the pine forest is dying! —Well he must be drinking again or never stopped to be now blaming the NDP for the pine beetle infestation, Yea the NDP are responsible for all global warming, what a fruit loop.

    This green plan is bogus, it does ZERO for greenhouse gasses,zip,nil,nada, ———–ADIOS Campbell

    grant g

    June 17, 2008 at 7:08 pm

  5. If you all want to save the planet then do something,protest in the street about coal going from BC to china
    Protest about gas exploration all over BC
    Protest gateway,highway expansion,port expansion
    Protest development,removal of land from the ALR
    protest fish farms
    Protest BC population increasing,before we have the answeres
    Protest BC mining,protest the pipeline from fort mcmurray coming to prince rupert
    Protest community schools being closed so kids aren`t bussed millions of miles a year
    Protest the selling of BC rail–It used to piggyback trucks around the province,that doesn`t happen anymore.
    Protest the wholesale destruction of BCs enviroment—-4 lakes in the province have just been deemed disposable (so they can be used for mine tailings) Turning water into toxic death traps!

    All you who want to rah rag the Campbell tax when he and his party has done more enviromental damage then any goverment in the history of BC

    All you say,why doesn`t Premier James come up with a plan, well she is and she is not going to give it to Campbell, don`t you know how politics work,every private members bills that were brought up by tne NDP in the legislature were shot down by the BC Liberal majority(allthough several of those bills were then TAKEN by the liberals and called their own,with no credit given to the NDP)

    Smoking ban in cars with kids
    service men inthe armed forces get guaranteed job security if they are called to action (when they return)
    There are many more bills as well

    Suzuki and all the other eco groups don`t have to worry about getting elected!
    The media has spoonfed BC liberal propoganda for 7 years–So unless you watch the legislature or read bills or community papers then you have no idea what the NDP platform is

    Here is a few highlights—Ban fish farms, Return Ea assessments–ASk the publics opinion—Tax big polluters(allow tax write offs for green technology)—Carbon taxes to go into transit and green infrastruture—Safe anti-freeze law—Better health care–Social housing–An increase in the minimum wage–Get rid of the 6 dollar starter wage–No more ferry increase(its part of the marine highway)—lower transit fares–limit outsourcing–toughen up the lobbyist registry–Smaller goverment—Bring BC ferries and other crown corporations back in the goverment fold(where they are anyway)—Restore legal aid—residential tenancy disputes outlets—womans services,shelters–AND most importantly,respect,truth,democracy

    So go-ahead praise Campbell and the “Campbell tax”—–BY the way I have some swamp land in the everglades you might be interested in.

    grant g

    June 17, 2008 at 7:58 pm

  6. I often hear the Greens should align with the NDP to form an alliance, people do know the Greens are a right of centre party right? Besides the environment they have more in common with the Tories then they do the NDP. Heck they are not that far off what our provincial liberals look like. Continue on with the ranks against the rightwing.

    Joe just Joe

    June 17, 2008 at 9:23 pm

  7. When has a tax ever been revenue neutral? Campbell has about $14 billion in SkyTrain construction planned and he needs revenue to pay for it.

    I’m afraid the carbon tax is a politically motivated, to tax the ‘punters’ yet again.

    Why not ban the millions of plastic ‘give-a-way’ toys from fast-food chains, they mostly end up in the dump. Banning such toys across North America would be most beneficial.

    Malcolm J.

    June 18, 2008 at 8:55 am

  8. Joe

    You are wrong, just wrong

    I know a lot of greens and they are absolutely nothing like Tories. Greens care about the environment. The Tories (or as the they are known here, the BC Liberals) are merely concerned to keep business profitable no matter the cost to the general well being. They are essentially a corporatists – people who believe in the daft ideas of the “trickle down theory” or “any problem can be solved by a tax cut (domestic) or military intervention (foreign usually but not exclusively)”.

    The essential feature of the “right of centre” is a rigid view that the state should do no more than the absolute minimum of intervention – basically criminal law enforcement is about the only state function they endorse. Greens take a much more positive view of what can be achieved through regulation and market intervention (which is anathema to the right wing).

    Stephen Rees

    June 18, 2008 at 9:29 am

  9. The NDP’s position is extremely disappointing. Yes the government’s plan has it’s flaws and should be improved upon, so why doesn’t the NDP propose to do that, instead of this moronic and counterproductive “axe the tax” campaign. I sympathize with social justice arguments, but people are ignoring the fact that we need to shift away from a carbon-economy now, or else there will be greater economic pain as oil prices continue to rise and our current system becomes less and less tenable.

    And Malcolm, the GST is revenue neutral. In 1989 the MST took in 15.3% of federal revenues, whereas in 2005 (before it was cut) the GST took in 14.9% of revenues. (


    June 18, 2008 at 10:17 am

  10. I believe a total change in outlook and approach is required because nothing less than a dramatic change in society (i.e. in how we choose to live on the planet) is required to meet the challenges ahead.

    Wasting time niggling over what is really a mosquito bite of a local tax (that accomplishes exactly what, a measureable reduction in emissions? serious funding of transit and alternative energy? a long-term planning exercise for adaptation to rising seas, burning forests, pounding storms and millions of climate change refugees at the door? the conversion of suburbia to more efficient urban forms?) is very limiting at a time when more expansive thinking, visioning and planning is desperately needed.

    The feds and provinces could collectively spend 10 billion dollars a year over the next decade to implement only a minimum of policy changes and projects that would barely address Canada’s response to the most serious challenge civilization has yet faced. That needs to be financed somehow, and taxes, cap and trade and conservation are lining up to be the Big Three methods to ‘finance’ emission reduction, adaptation measures, and make selective ecologically-based investments.

    And here we already have much fire-breathing and beating of chests over a small carbon tax that stemmed from a limited vision and poor problem definition.

    The real question is, How do you inspire the left AND the right – not to mention the great middle where the majority of us park our politics — to UNITE in one common cause to save civilization? You won’t do it espousing the politics of negativity, limitation and exclusivity. That has been practiced since 1962 with very marginal success. Instead, you’ll accomplish much by addressing the terms of building new and better communities, enhancing positive social and economic networks, and establishing a consensus that improving the quality of life for everyone should be the highest goal.


    June 18, 2008 at 10:41 am

  11. A mosquito bite?—-People on disability won`t get a tax cut,seniors on pension won`t get a tax cut,schools hospitals,regional goverments won`t get a tax cut or refund,this tax will take money from the underclass and distribute it to the polluters.

    Charter boats ,truckers,taxi cabs,will be hurt lots, this Campbell tax is escalating,a misquito bite to some but enough to drive fixed income people to the already overworked food banks.
    Do you think all the school,hospital,public service places in the province are going to have their budgets raised to accomodate these costs?
    Big corporations that pollute are getting massive tax cuts,those tax cuts will come from all the things and people I mentioned.

    It is quite obvious that many of you feel that paying money you can afford will ease your guilt, ” Look how green you are,your paying a little money so its okay to drive your truck or take a flight”
    I bet you who support this Campbell tax also have 500 christmas lights hanging on your house for a month burning electricity!

    Poor people don`t pay income tax,they won`t get tax cuts but they all will be paying user fees,higher fuel,heating oil,propane,natural gas that has gone up 22% in the las 5 months!
    It is not revenue neutrol at all, how about people show their BC identification and get the tax removed immediately?
    That doesn`t make any sense, this is a downloaded tax upon the poor,that benefits big polluters, big corporations.

    Thats just fine for you phony enviromentalists isn`t it.

    A misquito bite to some but a bee sting to hundreds of thousands that are already paying hundreds of Campbell taxes and user feers!

    All you who endorse this flim flam don`t really want to change at all, you just want your guilty souls massaged. A misquito bite that will give hundreds of thousands MALARIA

    Its obvious to me that “city planners” must be overpaid!

    grant g

    June 18, 2008 at 1:00 pm

  12. The market — not taxes — follows the laws of supply and demand, whether manipulated or not.

    The market — not taxes — has pushed the price of petroleum fuels to record highs. Fuel taxes have remained relatively unchanged. The upcoming carbon tax will be a mouse next to the market elephant in terms of inflationary pressure.

    The market — not taxes — will push the price of petroleum to levels not presently concievable as worldwide supplies dwindle.

    The market — not taxes — will push the price of natural gas to inconcievable levels within ten years as worldwide supplies dwindle.

    There’s also the argument that oil today is only beginning to be priced by the market as the finite resource it truly is. I agree with this view and contend that if it was recognized as such from the start and didn’t receive horendous subsidies over the decades from taxpayers in all industrialized countries to finance exploration, build refineries, make war on economocally weak but oil rich countries, and build oil-addicted cities, energy and transportation systems, we would not be in our current predicament where sustainability is fighting for air.

    The recent evidence leads to the conclusion that the market will do more to treat oil addiction than any tax, but not without a lot of pain. Alternatives to oil / gas and realizing the necessary steps to adapt to climate change must still be financed somehow. The absense of viable alternatives will make the hardships orders of magnitude greater.

    The BC carbon tax is not designed to finance anything. It’s purpose is to change consumer’s habits, but that is already being accomplished by high market prices weeks before the tax is even implemented. Cap and trade shows promise if they do it right (i.e. direct revenues from carbon polluters toward clean alternative transportation & energy and adaptation efforts), as does conservation.

    In my opinion, much tax revenue can be redirected to these efforts within existing budgets without going into the red, but the total revenue required likely exceeds existing government budgets. I say that in the context that market-oriented right wingers have had ideological sway over senior governments for years which has led to an erosion of public services. [Government and business are two different things and should be in balance. To date, the balance leans toward the private corporate agenda.] So we’re actually starting from below the surface if we are to protect our healthcare system while also financing adaptation to climate change.

    No one really knows the cost of adapting to climate change because no one has studied it in any great detail to my knowledge. Thus new taxes and revenues from cap and trade will likely be required, as well as major efforts in society-wide conservation. Building bigger dikes to protect Stephen et al from rising seas is one out of thousands of expensive projects that will be required in Canada over the next few decades.

    As for the income of planners and urban designers … plumbers make more.


    June 18, 2008 at 3:20 pm

  13. Why does everyone want to attack the poor. Liberal economy,the trickle down effect,give to the wealthy and the corporations and it will trickle down to the masses!Well we sure see how well that has worked in the USA.

    Now we have greenhouse gas global warming problem(maybe)—Lets analize that,liberal style(gordon Campbell style) —-The TRICKLE UP EFFECT—-Lets go after the poor,the middle class,the people without options,the services of the people, and eventually these tactics will trickle up to the big polluters and the corporation.

    If Campbell wins the next election(god forbid) then we will be stuck with a phony flim flam Campbell tax—Big business wins again,that is why it is so important to do it right the first time.
    You go after the big polluters,you offer relief from the taxes you impose on the big polluters if they invest in green technology.

    The federal green party just announced their carbon tax (1200.00 to 1700.00) a year in carbon taxes,which you will get back 1000.00 to 1400.00 in the form of income tax cuts —-Again,another attack upon the poor and pensioners and people who fall below the income tax threshhold.
    Thats what caused major cuts in BC services,income tax cuts ,replaced by user fees,the wealthy and the corporate world are always in favour lower tax rates replaced by user fees, more gravy for those who don`t need it,more pain for the poor and middle class.

    We are an exporting nation,we send oil to the USA, yet they pay 30% less than we do,why?—–Because we are taxed to death,and,are you ready for this—–We have provincial(Campbell) and federal(dion) leaders telling oil and gas companies indirectly,that we in Canada want to pay more and more and more—-Guess what,big oil and gas have willingly complied.

    Don`t you realize how silly it is to praise Campbell over the Campbell tax when everything he is doing is about big oil ,big gas,big highways,big enviromental damage,hes spending billions and locking us in for decades paying p3s for tolls ,bridges,highways,gas,oil,coal etc etc etc

    George bush stated today that the senate must lift the moratorium on all offshore drilling for oil and gas and in a recent poll ,most americans are in favour of more off shore oil and gas drilling(Campbell is of the same ilk)

    If Campbell was doing something,anything for the enviroment,I could possibly support this stupid hurtful tax,but hes doing zip,he won`t even fund transit, nothing will improve or change with Campbell, I am sick and tired of flowery wordy speeches about mindset and coming together and hand holding.
    It starts with a step forward but Campbell is walking backwards,while making flowery speeches!!!!!

    grant g

    June 18, 2008 at 4:31 pm

  14. To Meredith and others –You all must read Michael smyth column in the thursday june 19th edition—Its very informative,maybe after you read that column you will snap out of the apparent trance most of you seem to be in.

    I do respect most of your opinions but it pays to have all the facts!

    Mr. rees I hate to impose on you again but could you possibly supply the link.

    grant g

    June 19, 2008 at 1:37 am

  15. A quick note to Meredith from above:

    Government intervention – not market forces – ended slavery centuries before market forces would have.

    Government intervention – not market forces – gave women the vote decades before market forces would have.

    Government intervention – not market forces – banned lead from childen’s toys, places restrictions on guns in this country, limits smoking in public places and has abolished capital punishment.

    Government intervention – not market forces – through regulation, could have prevented the collapse of the derivatives market in the US and the subsequent meltdown in the liquidity markets where hard working people have seen their investments, life savings and retirement funds eroded to the point where retirement may no longer be possible. “Market Forces”, even now through the unanimous admissions of the staunchest of US advocates of such, Greenspan, Levitt and Rubin, are what got us into this economic problem.

    It is the bravery and leadership of Government intervention – not market forces – that is needed to lead the way to radically changing social patterns and limiting, if not hopefully someday reversing, the devastating effects that global warming is having upon our province, country and planet. Stephen, I agree with you that consumers needed to be given an incentive to change their behaviour. Unfortunately, we may not have the leisure or abundance of time to simply sit back and allow market forces to gradually determine the radically needed fundamental change in social patterns and attitudes. This is where government’s can, and must, provide leadership and act – and taxation policy is an excellent and responsible avenue to do so.

    I am so deeply disappointed and personally ashamed with Carole James’ continued public call to end the carbon tax. Perhaps she is indifferent on the issue of climate change and the heritage that our generation will leave for the next – and how many, perhaps limited, generations beyond that. Perhaps she is just desperately seeking to score political advantage. Perhaps it is the fundamental mechanics of the carbon tax that she cannot somehow comprehend. For somebody who seeks to become Premier of this Province however, I find that hard to believe – or perhaps just convenient perhaps. Please allow me to demonstrate for Carole how the carbon tax works in the most admittedly grossly, overly-simplified terms possible that will allow her to perhaps somehow grasp the concept. Please think in terms of a carbon tax of $5/litre – period. That’s it – that’s all. Yes, I said a $5/litre tax – revenue-neutral of course through offsetting tax policy (or dividend cheque – whatever) allowing you to do such things as install solar power or thermal power and other programs – or even put it back in your tank if you want or have to, the former making much more financial sense for most people though as the savings will be sustainable and perpetuating – and socially responsible. Just stop and think about that for a minute. What impact would that have on you personally? How would it change your thinking and your habits? I would suggest profoundly. Think about how patterns of transportation and human behavior would be profoundly altered with $6/litre gas. At its absolute broadest and most illustrative, that is how the carbon tax works Carole. Public transportation would be grossly advantageous. Needless miles driven would be eliminated. Electric vehicles would not only be viable but cheaper. Solar power would be financially feasible. Locally grown food would be much cheaper. And so on. Think on it for a while.

    We are living in a world where market forces have been long subsidized by cheap oil without the environmental cost ever being factored into that equation. Who knew? We eat cheap food from all over the world and think nothing of it as trucks clog our freeways and choke our skies to bring us cheap oranges from Florida, cheap bananas from Bolivia and cheap cameras and watches from China – only to throw them away after two years and then buy another because they broke and it is just cheaper to buy a new one. Market forces my ass. It is time that we begin to measure that environmental cost and factor it in. Simply allowing market forces to do so may take decades or centuries, if ever. And even then, there will always be some that will be unwilling to change and adapt, and will simply get a free, subsidized ride, the only cost being upon their conscience. Governments need to step in and take the lead – and act now.

    Carole James thinking unfortunately represent the same thinking as my father who got into a huge fight with me because he insisted on his plastic bag at the Home Depot to take home his box of screws – the same box of screws that he just spent 15 minutes carrying around the store but could not carry them another 30 seconds to the car – because that is the way he has always done it and it is simply “inconvenient” to change. Damned if he was going to change – not even one plastic bag could he sacrifice! People like that (and there are lots of them like my Dad and Carole James) will not change unless they are forced to. The assertion that this goes against personal freedom and market forces is the same thinking that Greenspan, Levitt and Rubin espoused a decade ago on US Derivatives that has landed us in the financial mess we find ourselves currently. To a man, they all admit now that they were wrong. When is your turn coming Carole – when we are spending our holidays basking on the warm, sandy beaches of the Beaufort Sea?

    Many assert that the Federal Liberals lost the election because of the carbon tax. I think that is just plain wrong – if not damaging and destructive for those seeking fundamental environmental change and political leadership. Speaking with family and friends who did not vote Liberal, most of the reason was that they are sick of the old boys, centralist, scandal plagued, self-entitled, left wing, Liberal cronies that are interested only in preserving power over serving their country. The carbon tax and the apparent sincere integrity of Stephane Dion seemed to be amongst the only reasons to consider putting an X beside a Liberal at the ballot box – but far from enough.

    The last person I read of so espousing the supposed myth of global warming and thus negating the call for needed change, was Michael Chernoff of the Chernoff Family Foundation – who spent their tax free dollars distributing the movie entitled “The Great Global Warming Swindle” to school children. What a noble cause to which to dedicate one’s life and establish one’s legacy. It turns out though that Mr. Chernoff was also a director of Encana, the largest oil and gas producer in Canada and, accordingly, owned 1,539,540 shares and 32,179 deferred share units in such. Accordingly, I wonder aloud what is in Carole James’ “political portfolio” that would so encourage her repeated calls for the elimination of the carbon tax – especially now with oil at $65/barrel.

    My wife says that we all have choices of either contributing to or contaminating society. Where does the BC NDP stand with their call to abort the carbon tax? My wife also says that sticking your head in the sand is a good way to get our collective asses kicked. My wife is a very smart person. The province, if not the world, is desperately looking for leadership at this critical juncture in our history. I sincerely hope we are blessed with the political leadership and the collective will to make the courageous changes and sacrifices needed ahead.

    Bruce C

    November 5, 2008 at 4:17 pm

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