COMMENTARY: A carbon tax is effective policy, despite what 7 in 10 Ontarians think
Carbon taxes have been unpopular for a while. Up until recently, though, not being a fan of carbon taxes, or believing them to be nothing other than a tax grab, was largely relegated to the right side of the political spectrum.
A recent poll by Ipsos, conducted exclusively for Global News, has revealed a stark change. It’s not just those on the right who are questioning the merits of a carbon tax, or who view such a tax as overwhelmingly ineffective. Nearly three quarters of Ontarians believe carbon taxes are simply a “tax grab,” while 68 per cent view carbon taxes as merely a symbolic gesture.
While it’s true that Conservatives were much more likely to view carbon taxes negatively — Ipsos found that 85 per cent of Conservative voters labelled a carbon tax a tax grab — it clearly cuts across partisan lines, with 72 per cent of NDP and 54 per cent Liberal voters feeling the same way.
This represents, in large part, a failure on behalf of the political class to effectively communicate how a carbon tax works, and what we are potentially putting on the line by not having a viable strategy in place to combat our changing climate. It is also a testament to how badly the Liberals have mismanaged the climate change file in the province of Ontario.
WATCH ABOVE: Doug Ford says he won’t allow a carbon tax to be instituted
While the Harper Conservatives may not have been the biggest ideological fans of implementing policy in order to curb pollutions, the Harper government embraced cap and trade as the official federal strategy. In the post-Harper era of Canadian conservatism, Conservative politicians at the provincial and federal level have done a very good job at maligning carbon taxes, and asserting that they won’t impose one.
This is in spite of the fact that there is a very good, conservative, case to be made for carbon taxes.
At the Manning conference this year, Conservative leader Andrew Scheer declared that one of the first things he would do, should his party form government in 2019, would be to eliminate the current federal scheme requiring the provinces to implement a method to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
WATCH ABOVE: Andrew Scheer touts repealing of carbon tax as path to victory over Liberals
At the provincial level, Saskatchewan premier Scott Moe has said he will challenge the federal government in court, with Ontario Progressive Conservative leader Doug Ford (who is currently leading in all polls and is currently projected to garner a majority on June 7) stating Ontario would join in on the challenge to the feds.
Further to that, Ford has stated he will do away with cap and trade entirely, not implement a carbon tax of any kind, and announced this week he would make it easier to put more cars on the road by lowering gas prices in the province. The Twitter account for the Ontario PCs even boasted this week about not having a plan to combat climate change.
Given the numbers from Ipsos, it’s not surprising that a party fully embracing populism would opt for a politically popular notion, even if it were bereft of any reason. But it is somewhat odd that the PCs would not try to instead opt for a carbon tax that would be revenue neutral. Once upon a time, under former leader Patrick Brown, this was the party’s official policy: the carbon tax would have been used to fund a generous income tax cut. But Brown is no longer leader; it is now Ford’s party.
No reasonable person can contend that climate change does not pose significant risks to our current way of life. According to the Pentagon, climate change is a threat multiplier. It exacerbates terrorism in regions already experiencing food and water shortages. We’ve seen this happen with terror groups like Boko Haram, ISIL and the Taliban. Additionally, the world is wholly unprepared to deal with the oncoming climate migrant crisis. And I’m not sure Canada has any idea what to do when other countries start to realize just how much fresh water we have — a soon-to-be-scant resource.
The Ipsos numbers on how Ontarians perceive a carbon tax should be worrying people all over this country. Ontario is the country’s most populous province, and with populism increasingly creeping its way into our politics, it’s only a matter of time before more politicians in this country adopt the Ford approach to climate change, which is to do absolutely nothing.
Climate change is real. Carbon taxes work. Neither of those sentences ultimately matters, though, if a majority of Ontarians disagree.
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