Silver’s Liberals could blunt carbon tax rage by showing their work

Libtard. Dumbass. God damn idiot (sic). And those are the comments we didn’t delete. The coming of carbon pricing is not going down well among certain segments of the electorate.

Libtard. Dumbass. God damn idiot (sic). And those are the comments we didn’t delete.

The coming of carbon pricing is not going down well among certain segments of the electorate. Large portions of the political right are having apoplectic fits over the prospect that gas prices will go up a bit. Some of that outrage finds a forum on our various comments sections.

Part of this is that carbon tax resistance has become almost a meme of the right, particularly in Alberta, where the collapse of oil prices has thrown thousands out of work and people are legitimately hurting.

But many have also been whipped into a frenzy by agitprop artists like Ezra Levant and in many cases legitimate criticism of Alberta’s carbon pricing plan has been usurped by vicious and sometimes violent sexism directed at Alberta Premier Rachel Notley and her government.

In the Yukon, we’re not quite there yet, although the undercurrent of anger is already starting to simmer.

Some people seem to think carbon pricing will lead to economic doom (it won’t). Some are incensed that government would implement any policy that would encourage them to change their behaviour, as through it’s their God-given right to idle their F250 outside Independent for a half an hour, even when it’s not -30. And others flat out refuse to believe that the Yukon government will return any or all carbon pricing revenue to taxpayers, as Premier Sandy Silver has promised.

That said, citizens have more than earned the right to be skeptical of government promises. And the new government has not done a particularly good job of communicating how Yukon’s implementation of the federal carbon tax is going to work.

Silver promised that “100 per cent” of carbon tax revenues will be returned to Yukoners in the form of a rebate, while the territorial and federal governments spend on renewable energy, building retrofits and other emission-reducing projects. That’s all well and good. Carbon tax or no, the Yukon needs to do more to help people use less fossil fuels.

The new Yukon government needs to be clear about some things, even if the details of how the carbon tax rebate will work are still be fleshed out. “Canada will be responsible for administering the tax,” a finance department spokesperson told me this week. “This means that many details must be clarified at the federal level before the territory can develop a process for remitting the associated revenue to Yukoners.”

While the exact revenue figures remain unknown, there’s nothing stopping the Yukon government from presenting different models for carbon tax rebates and testing the waters to see what people would prefer.

Many questions remain about how this is going to work. Will money be returned in the form of income tax cuts? Not everyone will get all of their carbon tax money back. High-consumption industries, like placer mining, are going to get nailed. What’s the plan to ensure placer mining stays economically feasible?

People in the communities, who generally pay higher gas prices, and who are much more reliant on personal vehicle use to travel, are going to feel the pinch. What is the government going to do to give people alternatives for getting around?

How is the rebate going to be structured? What is the government going to do to ensure lower-income earners, pensioners and the like don’t get unduly burdened by higher gas prices?

And Silver has said that Yukon will reap carbon tax revenue from Alaskan and other out-of-territory travellers passing through. Roughly how much revenue can the Yukon expect from this and how much will it offset what Yukoners have to pay?

Silver had no control over the timing of the federal-provincial-territorial meetings to hammer out the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change. It is a huge file to be dumped on a new, incoming government. But that is no excuse for the Liberals’ approach so far, which has been, in essence, “Don’t worry, we’ll let the bureaucracy figure out the details and get back to you.”

That’s not good enough.

The Liberals won November’s territorial election fair and square, and two-thirds of Yukoners cast ballots for parties who supported some form of carbon pricing. Silver has a mandate to act on this.

But the premier would be well advised to level with Yukoners and explain in detail how this new system will affect them and to offer people different scenarios and explain their impact on personal incomes and the wider economy.

Doing so will not quell carbon pricing’s most vocal opponents, but Yukoners are entitled to see the government’s math.

Contact Chris Windeyer at editor@yukon-news.com.

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