EDITORIAL: Carbon tax window dressing

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Ask Northerners if they believe climate change is problem, the answer would almost certainly be a resounding ‘yes!’

Ask them if they’re willing to pay a tax to fight it though and the percentage of those answering in the affirmative is bound to be much smaller.

This is the paradox of climate change politics today. Northerners sense a problem but faced with the North’s ever climbing cost of living they recoil at having to pay more, and more they will pay as the NWT Association of Communities confirmed before a committee of MLAs reviewing the carbon tax due to come into effect Sept. 1.

Residents will receive a rebate on carbon taxes charged to home heating fuel but not for filling up their vehicles. Neither will community governments, MLAs were told. The carbon tax on gas for fire trucks, ambulances, all municipal service vehicles really – NWT residents will have to pick up the tab for that as well.

To recap, what is being proposed is an introduced price on greenhouse gas emissions at $20 per tonne next year which will incrementally rise to $50 per tonne by 2022. Aside from the rebate on home heating fuel, aviation fuel will also be exempted, as will the NWT Power Corporation. Large emitters, such as mines, will get a 72 per cent rebate on the carbon tax and 12 per cent of that will go into individual trusts.

The tax still needs to be approved by MLAs ahead of the implementation date.

Quite controversially, money raised from the tax is expected to flow into general revenue. Regular MLAs complain, rightfully so, that it will make it difficult to follow the tax’s effectiveness toward spending on clean and affordable energy.

If red tape and already high transportation costs weren’t already a factor in the NWT’s high cost of living, then they surely will be now.

And a tax dressed up as a salve to fight climate change that will pour like a river into general coffers as it drains our already stressed pocketbooks is just another tax.

Both Prime Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government that is demanding provinces and territories implement a carbon tax, and the territorial government yielding to its demands, have been very bad at explaining how such a tax will actually fight climate change.

The fact is, assertions made by the NWT’s Association of Communities about climbing costs are just the tip of the ice berg. All costs are likely to go up because the NWT, probably more than any other jurisdiction, relies so heavily on diesel and gasoline. Those groceries in the refrigeration truck on its way to Inuvik have a long, long way to go to get there and the carbon tax is charged by the litre.

The GNWT talks about aiming to invest “in initiatives and programs that lead to greater use of renewable and cleaners fuels.”

Well, when it comes to motor transportation what exactly is it talking about? Last we checked, there aren’t any alternatives on NWT highways.
Northerners want to do their part to fight climate change but everyone here knows they’re getting hosed and aren’t at all convinced the government has a serious plan that will slow the change to the NWT’s environment. Hence the paradox.

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