Why Doug Ford should do the unthinkable: introduce a carbon tax



This is perhaps the most obvious result of the last federal election, but it should not go without discussion in Ontario: at least until after the next provincial election in June 2022, the question of whether there will be a carbon price in Ontario is installed. The federal carbon tax has survived legal challenges from Doug Ford to the Supreme Court of Canada, which upheld federal power to set national minimum prices for carbon just six months ago. However long the current federal parliament lasts, the carbon tax will last with it. And it could last even longer, because who knows what the political landscape will look like in the next federal competition?

When it comes to carbon pricing, that leaves Ontario in a worse position than it was when Ford took office in 2018: there was a carbon price back then – a system cap and trade in coordination with Quebec and California – with revenues accruing to the provincial government. Before Ford, of course, the Progressive Conservatives had come up with something else: they were going to pass the federal carbon tax and spend the revenues on a bunch of ideas. But these became largely irrelevant when Patrick Brown was kicked out of his post as party leader. So here is the status quo in September 2021: There is still a price for carbon in Ontario, it is expected to increase significantly in the coming years, most of that money will be returned to taxpayers, and all political credit. for climate policy will go to Ottawa instead. from Queen’s Park.

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There is another option, although I suspect the Conservatives will not take the suggestion well: Ontario could implement its own carbon tax before the next election – a tax that matches the federal one in terms of rigor – and earmark the revenues for provincial purposes. It would be more or less the Brown plan, but it is because there are not so many ways to solve this problem as long as the Conservatives continue to lose at the federal level.

This would immediately have a few different benefits for the PCs, if they were willing to swallow a bitter pill. Billions of new dollars would go into the provincial treasury (not, above all, really representing a new tax for anyone). The Tories could surrender to voters next June after putting aside one of the issues the Liberals and NDP are most likely to use as a sign of their lack of seriousness (as the Liberals did against Andrew Scheer and Erin O’Toole). And they would reduce their opponents’ ability to make shiny new promises with that money instead – that would already be money spent on government spending, after all.

The Conservatives’ objections to this idea are obvious and can only be slightly unfairly summed up as “nuh uh, I don’t want to”. But to clarify: Ford won the PC leadership race and then the 2018 election on a clear promise to end the liberal cap-and-trade agenda. Ford advocates would see the kind of reversal I am proposing here as an act of political suicide. It would push back much of the Conservative base and not win enough Progressive Conservative votes to make up for that prejudice.

To take these claims in turn: Ford did not win the 2018 election because he promised to abolish the carbon tax; he won the 2018 election because he wasn’t Kathleen Wynne, and that was enough for about 40% of the electorate. We know this because his share of the vote was pretty much exactly what Brown had polled while telling everyone he would pass a carbon tax. As for the conservative base, its reaction would depend a lot on what the government decides to do with the revenues. Former Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister used carbon tax revenues to cut provincial sales taxes – are you telling me that no Conservative voter could support that?

The recent election results, and the fact that O’Toole was not rewarded by voters for trying to take the carbon pricing gospel to the Conservative Party, deserve to be taken seriously. But the policy proposed by O’Toole – essentially, a carbon pollution loyalty program that would see people rack up a savings account based on the pollution they were responsible for – seemed tailor-made not to actually report. the seriousness of the climate policy (the internal politics of the Conservative Party demanded that it not appear serious). And, anyway, it’s hard to know how many people stayed home because O’Toole passed carbon pricing versus how many stayed home or voted for the People’s Party of Canada on the. passports and vaccination warrants. Honestly, the 2021 election was pretty weird, and a lot of the things that have been a factor this year won’t be in two, three, or four years.

The alternative to passing a carbon tax is quite simple: Conservatives could bet on government handling of the pandemic and divided opposition to lead them to yet another election victory and find other ways to balance the budget. (Even with the relatively good news on Friday, Ontario’s deficit for 2020-21 was $ 16.4 billion, the second largest in the province’s history.) He now seems largely to have agreed. ever-increasing provincial spending. Voters are – rightly – not very worried about deficits right now, but we can expect conservative politicians to be one day. When they are, the carbon tax will be there, waiting for them.



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