Stephen Rees's blog

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

Archive for April 12th, 2009

B.C.’s NDP sell out on carbon tax

with 19 comments

The Globe and Mail’s Gary Mason has a trenchant piece on the NDP’s election platform. Specifically on its commitment to end the carbon tax – which Carol James prefers to call “the gas tax”. Mason’s take on this is that the NDP has come with a policy that is “shortsighted and uninspiring”.

The problem that I have with the BC government’s carbon tax is it is not nearly enough. It is better than nothing, but I do not see it achieving a reduction of CO2 emissions by 33 per cent from current levels by 2020 – which is the government’s overall goal. That target in itself is modest in terms of the pressing need to get CO2 down to 350 ppm which is what would be needed to hold the advance of global warming. But then Canada is not yet on track to even cut its current emissions. It is also doubtful if BC’s current programmes of mainly hyrdo P3s and carbon offsets by tree planting will actually do very much. It seems to me that the main thrust of the Liberal’s approach is to do what seems to be best for their big business paymasters. 

Already, previously NDP-friendly environmental organizations such as the David Suzuki Foundation and the Pembina Institute have denounced the NDP’s plan to axe the tax. And their criticisms are just the beginning of hostilities the policy has ignited.

But is this going to translate into votes? It is certainly not enough to swing NDP supporters to the Liberals – for the reasons already cited. I suspect it may well help to get a few Green Protest votes in Liberal safe seats. But I am not convinced that it will get enough people to change their strategic voting intentions in marginal seats. 

But combined with other NDP missteps, it may have local effects. The one issue that I think could have such an effect is South of the Fraser, where both the idea of expanding the freeway – and the significant burden this will not add to provincial indebtedness – will be very unpopular with both green leaning voters and fiscal conservatives. The sort of people who want transit instead of freeways are also likely to view the carbon tax as a necessary device to get people to change their ways. At the same time there are plenty of people who have been so inculcated with hatred of public debt that they cannot convince themselves of the value of its economic stimulus. So there could be gains for both Greens and the Conservatives.

If there were STV now, this would certainly effect the outcome – and may even shift a few votes in favour of STV in the referendum. That got a majority last time – just not enough – and it needs to be more convincing this time. Though I would not be at all surprised if once again the government finds a way to ensure its own political advantage by somehow applying its usual approach of spin and mendacity.

But Mason concentrates on the much less interesting (to me anyway) calculation of how effective the NDP approach might be. Which is simply choosing between the lesser of two evils. I hope does return with a follow up on “the potential political fallout from the measure” which he seems to promise. I suspect he is waiting for the pollsters to pronounce.

Written by Stephen Rees

April 12, 2009 at 6:34 am