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B.C. ‘better off’ with carbon tax, but foes have ‘easier’ story to tell: analyst

Clean Energy Canada’s Trevor Melanson says governments should have done a better job explaining tax
Conservative Party Leader Pierre Poilievre, here seen during a rally Ottawa, on Sunday, March 24, 2024, will hold a rally in Nanaimo Monday as the provincial carbon tax has jumped by 23 per cent to $80 per tonne. But Trevor Melanson, a spokesperson for Clean Energy Canada, said the carbon tax is not the ‘real culprit’ of inflation in arguing that most British Columbians will ultimately be better off. Melanson, however, acknowledged that opponents of the tax have an easier story to tell. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Spencer Colby)

As Pierre Poilievre prepares to mark today’s carbon tax hike with an Axe the Tax rally in Nanaimo, an energy think tank says the tax will ultimately make most British Columbians better off.

But Trevor Melanson, communications director with Clean Energy Canada, also said tax supporters must do a better job of explaining the tax, which rose by 23 per cent to $80 per tonne April 1.

Melanson said Poilievre and seven provincial premiers opposed to the tax increase are talking about it for political gain.

“They could choose to ignore it (the tax) and we could all just get on with doing our part to combat climate change,” he said. “So part of it is a choice to make it a political fight. But also the ‘Axe The Tax’ side of this fight has an easier story to tell.”

Melanson said the argument of the federal Conservative leader and his supporters literally consists of its three-word slogan.

“They don’t need to tell you anything else for you to have a basic concept what their argument is,” Melanson said.

The carbon tax is not the “true culprit of why things have gotten so expensive in this country and in this province,” Melanson said in echoing hundreds of economists from university departments across the country. They recently issued a letter stating global factors such COVID-19 and international conflicts have “mainly” contributed to inflation, not carbon taxes.

“According to the Bank of Canada, carbon pricing has caused less than 1/20th of Canada’s inflation in the past two years. “Climate change, on the other hand, poses a real threat to Canadians’ economic well-being. For example, it increases the risk and severity of natural disturbances, such as fires, floods, and severe storms.”

Melanson said these have become part of daily life.

“So we all know we need to do something and there is really no-zero cost option here,” he said. “Obviously, not solving climate change is not zero cost. It’s the most costly option.”

The public may not fully understand the elegance of the carbon tax and corresponding rebate as a price signal to encourage choices that cut greenhouse gas emissions, Melanson said.

One hundred per cent of this month’s increase in the carbon tax will be rebated back.

“I look at lots of polling on this, I have been in focus groups…and the overwhelming majority of people do not (understand) how carbon pricing works,” he said.

“What we needed is something like a national education campaign to help people understand it,” he said. “I think it could have raised better awareness of a lot of the climate measures they (governments) have been doing.”

RELATED: B.C. to ‘stick’ with April 1 carbon tax increase: Environment Minister

Melanson added that governments should have done launched such an information campaign years ago.

“(They) are up against the three easiest words in politics,” he said.

However, the declining popularity of the carbon tax also may not be just about a failure to communicate.

Currently less than half of ‘tax households’ B.C. — 43 per cent — receive the full climate action tax credit. About two-thirds receive a full or partial credits. Government wants to stretch this to 80 per cent by 2030 by raising eligibility thresholds.

Experts have also pointed out that government collects more than in carbon tax revenue than it returns in the form of rebates. B.C.’s budget currently shows government collecting just under $9.1 billion in revenues through the tax, and returning $3.52 billion through the credit.

When asked about this difference, Environment Minister George Heyman said a “significant amount of that money goes towards supporting a range of investments and incentives and rebates” whether it is for public transportation, zero-emission vehicles or heat pumps.

“We are also supporting the industry through the Clean BC Industry fund, we are investing substantial amounts in electrification for both the electricity that families will need in the future and industry will need to ensure that they lower their carbon emissions and are therefore more successful, more competitive and pay less carbon tax.”

Melanson called the tax progressive and moving people in the right direction.

“That’s largely been the story across the country, that most people end up better off under a carbon price.”

Wolf Depner

About the Author: Wolf Depner

I joined the national team with Black Press Media in 2023 from the Peninsula News Review, where I had reported on Vancouver Island's Saanich Peninsula since 2019.
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