Opinion Column

B.C. Liberals' carbon tax a smoking wreck

BILL TIELEMAN, 24 HOURS

The carbon tax alone could cause a reduction in B.C.'s emissions in 2020 by up to three million tonnes of CO2 equivalent annually. - B.C. Ministry of Finance website

If the intent of the B.C. Liberal government's three-year old carbon tax is to reduce gasoline consumption and pollution, it's been a smoking wreck on the highway.

The carbon tax puts an additional tax of 5.56 cents per litre on to the already high price of gas.

The gas tax increased another 1.1 cents a litre July 1 - with the intent of persuading consumers to reduce driving. It also applies to home heating fuels, natural gas and other petroleum products.

But there are a few problems. First, the carbon tax isn't working.

Statistics Canada figures reveal a gassy tale of woe.

Last year, B.C. motor gas sales were 4,695.7 in thousands of cubic metres compared to 4,529.8 in 2008 - the first year the carbon tax started.

There are many other factors but one thing is clear - selling more fuel each year means greenhouse gas emissions go up, not down.

Why consumption is up is simple - increasing the price without providing more options to reduce driving doesn't work.

The B.C. carbon tax is supposed to offset the higher cost of fuels with personal and corporate income tax cuts.

That means the $1 billion annually in extra gas taxes doesn't fund public transit at all, nor does it provide consumers with financial incentives to buy fuel-efficient vehicles, insulate your home to use less furnace oil or fund environmental projects.

The second big problem: the carbon tax is unfair because it's a regressive consumption tax, like the Harmonized Sales Tax. As such, lower and middle income British Columbians end up paying proportionately more of their limited budget on fuel than wealthy people.

While there's a carbon tax rebate for very low income earners, the maximum personal credit is $115.50 and the personal income threshold for the maximum grant is $31,000.

So the carbon tax makes you pay more than your fair share of the cost while you don't get the benefits of better public transit - so you can leave the car home to go to work, or get a tax break for buying a gas-miser vehicle.

The carbon tax pledge - still a lot of hot air.

Read more from Bill Tieleman at thetyee.ca Email: weststar@telus.net Website: billtieleman.blogspot.com