BC VIEWS: B.C. fails to save the planet

Premier Christy Clark isn't going into next year's election with a promise to jack up Canada's only significant carbon tax

A B.C. Liberal operative was out with the online spin hours before Premier Christy Clark confirmed the much-leaked news in a Friday afternoon announcement at an obscure location in Richmond.

The, er, freeze is continuing for B.C.’s ground-breaking, world-saving carbon tax, which hasn’t changed since before Clark was elected in 2013.

The spin was Olympic-themed, with a picture labeled to show B.C. as a swimmer far out in the lead in the pool, to symbolize that it’s the other provinces that need to catch up in the race to save the planet.

Clark has been saying that for years, and there is merit to it. Even without a tax on “process emissions” such as from cement kilns, B.C.’s carbon tax encourages imports of non-taxed cement from the U.S. and China.

Alberta business professor Andrew Leach, who advised the Stephen Harper and then Rachel Notley governments on greenhouse gas policies, summed up the problem this way.

“Until the rest of the world has policies that impose similar cost, you’re not actually reducing emissions to the extent you think,” Leach said. “You’re just displacing the emissions and the economic activity to other jurisdictions.”

Alberta is moving to join B.C. with a modest carbon tax, but the NDP government plans to spend the proceeds rather than return them in income tax as B.C. has done. And Washington state and most of the rest of the world have no carbon tax as such, so their businesses benefit from B.C.’s “climate leadership.”

B.C.’s foreign-funded eco-radical community was, needless to say, appalled. The Pembina Institute’s Matt Horne and career protesters Tzeporah Berman and Merran Smith were named to the premier’s advisory committee last year, along with business, academic and aboriginal representatives.

They concluded that increases to B.C.’s broad-based tax on carbon fuels should resume its upward march in 2018.

Other committee members, including the mayors of Surrey, Comox and Burns Lake, were not heard from. Public discussion on this issue is now reduced to a staged conflict between those who demand a holy war on deadly carbon dioxide “pollution,” and those who don’t care if their grandchildren perish in a hell-fire of fossil fuel use.

We’ve just come off another El Nino year, like the hot year of 1998. Regular readers will recall the last time I discussed this topic was this spring, where I questioned the premier’s dire warnings of another horrendous forest fire season.

What followed has been one of the slowest forest fire seasons in the last decade, although dry conditions have finally emerged this month. Climate predictions, like next week’s weather forecast, are less than consistent.

I am regularly sent messages calling me a “climate change denier,” the nonsense term that continues to be used by federal Environment Minister Catharine McKenna among many others. I know of no one who denies that climate is always changing, at times dramatically.

If you wish to believe that paying an extra seven cents a litre for gasoline in B.C. is helping to slow the very gradual increase in temperatures we’re seeing in the northern hemisphere, you are free to do so.

You may even be persuaded to take a government subsidy and buy an expensive, short-range electric car. Me, I’m off to Prince Rupert and Revelstoke pretty soon, so I’ll stick with my little four-cylinder gas sipper for now.

Hydro-powered B.C. represents a small fraction of the less than two per cent Canada contributes to global greenhouse gas emissions. We’re not the problem, and no, the world is not looking to us for guidance.

Tom Fletcher is B.C. legislature reporter and columnist for Black Press. Email: tfletcher@blackpress.ca Twitter: @tomfletcherbc