Taxing carbon is a system that has “never worked.”
That’s the view of Andrew Scheer, leader of the Conservative Party of Canada, and that’s a reason why he wants to nix it.
Scheer was in Whitehorse on July 3, his first trip to the Yukon. The carbon tax was implemented in the territory earlier in the week.
Scrapping it resurfaced during a public speech of his here. He threw barbs at the Liberal government for what he characterized as its bullheaded way of doing politics in Canada, the carbon tax being but one example.
If his party seals the election this fall, he said the first thing he’d do is torpedo it.
“We know that it’s going to hit people disproportionately harder in certain areas. (The Liberals) have a one-size-fits-all approach that does not really take into account the secondary costs,” Scheer told reporters after a luncheon facilitated by the Yukon Chamber of Commerce earlier in the day.
The federal carbon levy — spurred by reduction targets established during the Paris summit in 2015 — became effective on July 1 in the Yukon.
Ottawa projects a decrease of 6.8 kilotonnes of emissions in the Yukon within its first year followed by roughly 20 kilotonnes in 2020 and 32 kilotonnes in 2022.
Each tonne of carbon is now taxed by $20. This number will climb annually by $10 until it hits $50 by 2022. The levy will plateau afterwards.
Residents, businesses, First Nations, municipalities and placer miners, among others, are entitled to rebates. How those are doled out differ by category.
There are exemptions – aviation fuel and diesel-powered electricity in rural zones. National exemptions include commercial fishing and agriculture.
According to Scheer, these won’t make a difference.
“It’s not a uniform exemption,” he told reporters. “It does create some disparities between where the planes are filling up, that does add extra costs, as well. One thing that’s clear, that doesn’t work.”
Transportation costs will rise for businesses and families, Scheer continued.
When pressed by a News reporter on the specifics of the Yukon’s carbon tax system, he said, “Look, at the end of the day, people would rather not want to pay the tax. I believe fundamentally that when they know that they’re paying more at the pump, they’re paying more to heat their homes, they’re paying more to bring goods and services into remote locations, the rebate will not cover those costs. It’s also going to drive away jobs and growth.”
To replace the carbon tax, Scheer said he’d introduce a green renovation tax credit, incentivizing more energy efficient homes.
He also discussed a “green patent credit.”
“It will allow Canadian companies to develop a new technology that is proven to reduce emissions to earn a much reduced rate under corporate taxes from any revenue from that.”
Scheer was heckled during the luncheon.
Shane Wolffe told Scheer that federal programs that make homes more energy efficient have been tried in the past.
“If you follow this plan,” he said, “we will be left in the dust.”
“Who cares about research and development,” Wolffe told reporters afterwards. “We don’t need more research and development. We need people doing the work. It should be paying for solutions. That’s what a carbon tax is supposed to pay for.”
During the conference, Scheer said he would work with First Nations to bolster economic prosperity and job security.
Part of his circuit included meeting with Peter Johnston, grand chief of the Council of Yukon First Nations.
During an interview with the News, Johnston said he wasn’t inspired by their discussion.
“It was nothing like, ‘I understand where you people have gone. I understand that if you’re successful, we’re successful.’ None of that. No visionary discussion.”
Johnston said Scheer has no plans for Indigenous people.
A review of the leader’s platform seems to confirm this.
“By now you should have at least a couple of little points that you want to bring forward to the First Nations, you want to continue on this relationship of implementation. His idea is not building two-tier systems, I don’t think, and, right now, we are building two-tier systems in the territory, because we (First Nations) have that jurisdiction.”
Johnston added that it appears Scheer isn’t well versed with Yukon First Nations, specifically that most in the territory are self-governing.
Justice issues were also discussed during the meeting. Scheer wants to get tough on crime, said Johnston, adding that this is what former prime minister Stephen Harper did, which resulted in more Indigenous people being incarcerated.
“We’re those people,” Johnston said. “We’re the ones caught in the social dysfunction that are still reeling from the past.”
The Liberal governments in both Ottawa and the Yukon, Johnston said, “have given us a lot to move ahead on.”
“We’ve moved ahead considerably over the last three years,” he said, giving a nod to Premier Sandy Silver.
“The chiefs here don’t have short memories.”
Contact Julien Gignac at firstname.lastname@example.org