Stephen Rees's blog

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

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

19 Responses

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  1. …”a trenchant piece “…
    Please you can not be serious.The article is just another anti-NDP screed that we often read in the corporate media when it comes to anything to do with the NDP.
    No matter what the NDP does or says they will never get a fair shake.Definitely not in the corporate media.
    That said I am in no way a party hack,indeed I have many criticisms of the NDP and Carole James.
    But then again there’s constructive and fair criticism(s),then there what we read in the Globe piece etc… neither fair nor constructive.
    Anyway on to the carbon tax.
    The carbon tax is not going to change one damn thing,other than to increase costs on working people.
    The only way to reduce carbon is to change the way we live.But that said, unless there are options no matter how many carbon taxes are employed people will still not be able to use less.For example the quickest and “easiest” way to reduce carbon is to reduce the use of cars.But to just tax gas at ever higher and higher rates without at the same time giving working people an alternative(s) way of getting to work other than depending on their cars(as many do particularly outside of metro-Van) the only result is more financial strain on working people.Many whom are already a pay check or two away from the street.(The NDP’s reasoning)
    So on one hand the Globe, Suzuki et al condemn the NDP,while saying nothing about that FACT.Also what about the Liberals expansion of freeways etc rather than developing sustainable and affective transit/alternative transportation ? Please tell me how that will reduce carbon ? Seems to me more highways means more cars,won’t this negate the “morality tax”,I mean carbon tax ?
    The NDP is right,this tax penalizes people in the North(B.C is not only the lower mainland) and those working people who barely get by as it is.Those like Suzuki who make a very comfortable living will not be affected by a carbon tax one iota,sure they can decide to use their cars less(out of personal conviction,good on them) if not they can also absorb the extra costs without feeling it ,unlike most working people(to bad for them).
    Anyway to even suggest that the Liberals are more green or environmentally conscious than the NDP is a ridiculous assertion.This is not to say that the NDP is much better(although I personally trust the NDP much more than the Libs),again the only way to reduce carbon is to change the way we live,more sustainable and real options.Less political bluster and positioning.


    April 12, 2009 at 6:13 pm

  2. Yes the corporate media slants its reporting and comment to promote the corporatists agenda. And the the point about Carol James’s opposition to the carbon tax is valid – it is pure, short term opportunism. Just as her switch from opposing the Gateway to now supporting the freeway widening and the new bridge. Simply because it is thought “necessary” to win votes South of the Fraser.

    Climate change is the greatest threat now facing humanity – and we do not have much time left to change course. But the NDP is still only thinking about how to get elected. The parallels with the British Labour Party are striking. Blair and Brown are simply “Thatcher in trousers” – so exactly what good did it do electing “New Labour”? All the UK got was more of the same.

    Both capitalism and socialism have failed. We cannot afford a strategy that is based on the idea that the economy must be kept growing exponentially. Consumption taxes are regressive – so the only way to make a carbon tax work is to ensure that it funds alternatives that everyone can benefit from. I think that transit expansion is an obvious – and more effective way – or reducing carbon emissions than “offsets” like tree planting – but that idea would not be popular in the north either. Northern votes already count two to three times compared to metro voters – Richmond is one of the least represented now (see recent data on the imbalance of “redistricting”).

    Stephen Rees

    April 12, 2009 at 6:28 pm

  3. No transit where I live,even Marc Jaccard states “for a carbon tax to be effective it must be 20 times greater than the price we now pay”

    Just like these massive run of river projects aren`t green.

    Gordon Campbell`s carbon tax is a pathetic joke!

    All it is, is a 600 million dollar a year tax(and rising) designed for one purpose,to create a 600 million a year tax cut, some winners(mainly big industry) and many losers!

    Until the tax collected get put towards transit or green technology it is a sad joke!Gordon Campbell has made political hay with this one………

    On one hand he calls it 600 million a year in goverment revenue,on the other hand he calls it 600 million a year in tax cuts?

    Why would you charge schools,hospitals,regional districts the Carbon tax?–They get no refund,but that money gets sucked out their budgets and gets diverted!
    The same Marc Jaccard –Had a study come out 18 hours after the NDP platform,Jaccard states “the NDPs Cap n Trade will cost up to 60 thousand jobs in 11 years”

    But Jaccard doesn`t say how many jobs a 20 fold increase in the carbon tax will cost,Jaccard doesn`t say how many jobs the the BC Liberal Cap n Trade will cost!…….
    Perhaps Marc Jaccard forgot that Campbell signed onto a Cap n Trade last april/2008!

    Its very unfortunate that Marc Jaccard has resorted to political hackery and thrown all his credibility he once had away,all for sponsorship!
    Tzeporah Berman has done the same,she spins the same nonesense as Penner/Plutonic power/and one should have a closer look at her “suspect sponsorship”

    If I remember correctly,you were quite happy Mr. Rees that they stopped the run of river on the upper pitt river…the toba and bute inlet RORs make the upper pitt project look like a tiny project,but you greens,Jaccard,Berman,Penner are all on board,I guess since you can`t see it,it doesn`t bother you!

    Even California has rejected our ROR projects as being green,how much noise has Suzuki made over our fishfarms,ROR,Gateway,………..

    None at all,because he has jumped on the useless Campbell carbon tax/revenue stream/tax cut…so all is good with Campbell as far as David Suzuki is concerned………….

    perhaps this thought hasn`t crossed your mind Mr. Rees,……….
    Suzuki,Jaccard,Berman, they don`t have to worry about being elected,and at this point in time in BC…….

    The NDP must do,and say whatever it takes to get elected,for if they don`t win,no changes will be made!………

    The Greens won`t win,The BC Conservative party won`t win,it`s either going to be 4 more years of Campbells lies and his harm to the enviroment(all the enviroment) or it is going to be Carole James and the NDP.

    A political party has to get their hands on the steering wheel first! Only then can they change direction.

    Grant g

    April 12, 2009 at 8:24 pm

  4. Just to show that my assertions are correct about Marc Jaccard,I have 3 links…….

    This first link is about the long awaited paper that came out 18 hours after the NDP platform -Marc Jaccard slamming the NDP because the NDP want to go after industrial polluters and stop the practice of gas flaring….

    The NDP get hammered by the so-called “enviromentalist” for putting forth a Cap n trade plan,pretty funny eh Mr. Rees

    This second link is to prove that the BC Liberals signed on to a cap n trade last april,there are no details on it,details,according to Campbell will come later……
    but according to Marc Jaccard,,,NDP Cap n Trade bad….Liberal Cap n Trade good….pretty funny eh..

    This third link is a list of many high powered BC Liberals who have joined Plutonic Power (and are now high paid directers)–and considering Plutonic Power has only been a company for 4 years,a little,no,a lot suspicious,especialy since Plutonic power is a subsiduary of General Electric(big American company)and considering Gordon Campbell`s ex-chief of staff is one of them…..pretty funny eh

    So it seems to me that the BC Liberals,and the so-called enviromentalists(now lobbyists) will hammer the NDP if they agreed with the Carbon tax or opposed it,and the proof is ………
    Look at what Marc Jaccard(and Canwest)and Campbell (who quoted from Jaccards paper on the saturday Sean Leslie show)……..

    bashed the NDP,on the radio,in the Canwest newspapers,all because the NDP have a Cap n Trade plan,and a plan to stop,or slow down gas flaring……

    The NDP are damned if they do support,or damned if they don`t support,,,,,,

    Pretty funny eh.


    Grant g

    April 12, 2009 at 9:03 pm

  5. Oops,I messed up that first link,here it is again

    The Marc Jaccard paper

    Grant g

    April 12, 2009 at 9:08 pm

  6. David Suzuki on Gateway:
    (from a Van. Sun article).
    on Fish Farming:
    On ROR:
    (google finds many more)

    The point is that the Campbell govn’t has many initiatives to be very critical of, but the Carbon Tax is *not* one of them.

    Yes, it may have to be 20 times what it is now to be effective (ie. 50cents/L… or taking current prices back to where they were at the peak last summer). But lets get started with the 2.5cents/L they are now, send clear signals to businesses and consumers, start investing in alternatives (where the Libs actions fail). It could be argued that a 50c/L tax is unfair out of the blue, but a slow ramp up from 2.5c/L is entirely fair in a world where we are planning to use fewer and fewer fossil fuels (are we not??).

    If we’re not willing to put a price on carbon, then we’re not serious about reducing it.

    The NDP is just as guilty as the Libs when it comes to the nonsense spin they are applying with Axe the Tax.

    And we have to remember that the Libs wouldn’t have such a firm grip on power if the NDP wasn’t so incompentent last time they were in power… (I’m not saying they’re so bad this time, but with spin like “Axe the Tax”, and their recent support of Gateway, one has to wonder)


    April 12, 2009 at 11:17 pm

  7. The stupid opposition to the carbon tax I knew about already. But I was surprised to find out that the NDP was also promising to cancel the plan to install smart meters.

    I guess the last thing we need in a peak oil era is a modern electrical grid….


    April 13, 2009 at 5:31 pm

  8. Declan said…”The stupid opposition to the carbon tax I knew about already”…

    So are you saying the carbon tax will lower carbon emissions ?


    April 13, 2009 at 9:50 pm

  9. @ Delcan–The BC Liberals first proposed smart meters 2 years ago,the cost estimate at that time was 400 million dollars–The latest cost estimate is 1.3 billion dollars!
    The labour to install 1.5 million smart meters is immense.
    These meters,would have to go inside the homes/businesses,they have to open up a wall and attatch to the main power……

    What wall,where,what room,who patches up the wall?

    These meters will never happen under either party……

    How many workers to install 1.5 million meters?

    How long would it take?

    When would they come on-line,after the first meter installed or the last one?

    So do you think it`s a good investment to spend over a billion dollars of tax-payers money to install meters?

    Do you need a meter to tell you that the more things you turn off the less power your going to use?

    Are you going to watch the meter spin?

    Let me just say this,Campbell already is charging a 2 tier hydro rate,the more you use the more it costs.

    Maybe its just me, I don`t think a meter is very smart,but here is an experiment you can try,if you live in a house,townhouse,apartment etc etc etc……

    turn off everything in your home,go outside to the “outdoor” meter and see how slow it runs!

    because the only difference between a smart meter and the outdoor meter is its location.

    Just a little food for thought


    Grant g

    April 13, 2009 at 10:08 pm

  10. You obviously have no idea what a “smart meter” is or does. A little research before you let fly another torrent please

    Stephen Rees

    April 14, 2009 at 5:33 am

  11. Who cares about this little carbon tax? In and of itself, it will have little affect on carbon emissions and little effect on people’s wallets.

    I don’t know the exact numbers, but the carbon tax is adding a few cents/liter of gas. But, gas is already down $.50 since last year. So, this tax increase is washed out by the drop of prices.

    Real action on climate change will need to be much, much bigger.

    That being said, if we are too scared or partisan to take even this small, symbolic step (a minuscule carbon tax), then we are all in deep, deep brown stuff.

    Andrew Eisenberg

    April 14, 2009 at 11:29 am

  12. The problem with the existing carbon tax is the fact that its revenue neutral. It simply shifted tax from one place to another. In order to initiate change the carbon tax must be new revenue and mandated for use on energy/emissions reduction projects with immediate results. No investing in research companies run by friends of government.

    In order to be useful a carbon tax would have to be much more than 2.4 cents per litre of fuel. Even 24 cents/litre probably isn’t enough to change behavior, but it would buy a lot of buses. Speaking of buses, the transit companies should be exempted from paying the carbon tax since they’re part of the solution.


    April 14, 2009 at 3:08 pm

  13. “Speaking of buses, the transit companies should be exempted from paying the carbon tax since they’re part of the solution.”

    I completely disagree. Transit companies need incentives to reduce carbon emissions. We need more zero-emission electric trolley buses and light rail.


    April 14, 2009 at 5:00 pm

  14. Don’t Axe the Tax, Fix the Tax.

    The revenue should be invested in transit, cycling and other solutions. Otherwise people have no choice and it is just another tax. In addition, the tax should not be put into place until there are improvements in a particular region and the tax should be increased as the solutions are improved.


    April 14, 2009 at 5:10 pm

  15. Sungsu, So you’d have TransLink pay a tax which is used to fund transit services? In essence they’d be paying themselves. Why not just exempt them in the first place so instead of employing more accountants they could hire more bus drivers?


    April 15, 2009 at 12:06 pm

  16. David,

    The tax is automatically collected by the fuel vendor. There would be more paperwork in arranging a rebate of the taxes. Just give TransLink more funding and let them pay the tax from that, or if they buy zero-emission vehicles, they won’t have to pay the tax at all.


    April 16, 2009 at 9:23 am

  17. The Province give TransLink more money? hahahahahahaha
    Transit users don’t vote Liberal so they don’t matter to our current government.

    Oh and TransLink doesn’t fill up at the local gas station, they buy bulk fuel and fill their own vehicles. Have the tax collected at the retail level and, voila, no extra paperwork for the bus company.


    April 16, 2009 at 10:59 am

  18. Smart hydro meters have been a feature of new Euro homes for quite a few years now and retrofitting them isn’t that much of a chore..The latest breakthrough is a meter that control all the meters in a home: electricity/ water/ natural gas or propane or oil. If the use of any one of these energies reaches a set level it send a phone message or e-mail to the home owner…(why not just a blast of an alarm siren?) I think it is the Italians who, about 15-20 years ago, came up with smart fuses boxes that control all the appliances and fixtures in a home and turn off the less important ones during the hours when the power rates are the highest. Many Euro countries have days of the months when the hydro rates are low, other days when they are medium and others when they are high. Within each daily overall price range the actual price of the KW also fluctuates depending on the hour of the day. Hence the need for a smart fuse box. The smart meter was next to come as the fuses boxes didn’t actually show the total consumption for the home. Euro appliances also have safety features that turn the power off automatically if they overheat (or a saucepan has boiled dry). In the case of dishwashers and washing machines, both the power and the water are turned off if there is a water leak.

    Red frog

    April 17, 2009 at 9:54 am

  19. Thanks for the article Stephen. In line with some of the other comments, I’m also disappointed that the NDP has chosen to axe the entire smart meter program in favour of “expanding conservation programs”.

    Smart meters work. From an environmental point of view they are a key element in enabling things like electric vehicles, voluntary demand response, provision of real-time consumption feedback, and distributed power generation such as small scale solar.

    From a financial standpoint they allow the utility to operate a significantly more efficient grid, detect outages and theft, and remotely read meters.

    As much as many people don’t like to admit it, BC imports power during peak times from neighboring grids in Alberta and Washington. This electricity contains a much higher CO2 emissions intensity factor than our own power. Conservation and grid efficiency are very important if we ever want to reduce this dependency. Programs such as PowerSmart, while admirable in their goals, have only managed to enroll about 70,00 people, or 1.5% of the population, at relatively a high cost. I’m not sure what types of conservation programs the NDP plans to expand, but if its more of the same, I think it simply wont work.

    Smart meters have been recognized in other parts of Canada and internationally as the best way to achieve real, voluntary reductions in electricity consumption and greater grid efficiency. Its a shame to see the NDP throw out such an important part of the fight against climate change.

    -Colin McKerracher


    April 20, 2009 at 1:18 pm

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