Don’t tax our carbon, say territorial leaders

The Yukon was right to reject a carbon tax proposed by federal Liberals, say opposition parties. Northerners would be unfairly penalized under the…

The Yukon was right to reject a carbon tax proposed by federal Liberals, say opposition parties.

Northerners would be unfairly penalized under the Liberals’ carbon tax plan, the three northern premiers told a news conference in Yellowknife last weekend.

The federal Liberals’ Green Shift plan is weak-kneed, said NDP Leader Todd Hardy.

“It misses the mark — it won’t reduce pollutants discharged into the air,” he said.

“The chances of businesses changing are nil. There isn’t a big enough disincentive.”

The proposal would establish a $10-per-ton tax on greenhouse gas emissions — rising to $40 within four years.

Gas will not be taxed, and diesel and aviation fuel would be exempt for one year.

At the same time, personal income and businesses taxes would be cut in compensation.

A carbon tax would increase the financial burden Yukoners already pay for high costs of energy, Fentie told media outlets.

He was unavailable for comment Monday or Wednesday.

Yukon residents don’t want a carbon tax, said Yukon Liberal Leader Arthur Mitchell.

“We need a made-in-Yukon solution,” he said.

“We need to be looking at more alternative forms of energy, like more hydro.”

Increasing energy costs have already forced Yukoners to change consumption habits, said Mitchell.

“We don’t have a lot of alternatives and to put a tax on existing energy would be unfortunate,” he added.

“There’s already enough of an economic penalty for using energy.”

The Liberals are developing a comprehensive energy policy with local experts.

As mining activity increases, the existing hydro-power supply will be stressed and diesel use will increase, said Mitchell.

Alternatives for home heating are propane, diesel, wood and electricity, but consumers have been discouraged from using electricity for years.

“We don’t have natural gas so we don’t have an alternative that exists in most of Canada,” said Mitchell.

Rural communities are tied to using diesel, he added.

“Yukoners don’t want to be taxed for something they can’t avoid doing.”

Dion’s Green Shift plan would increase the Northern Residents Deduction to $7,000 per year from $6,000 to help offset higher fuels costs in the North.

The contentious plan — criticized as a tax grab — is revenue neutral, according to Liberals.

All the financial penalties to businesses will be passed on to the consumer, said Hardy.

The government has a role in encouraging individuals and businesses to change how energy is consumed, but a carbon tax is not the way, he added.

“The carbon tax was created to make everyone happy,” said Hardy.

“There has to be an emission cap, and a firm one.”

The Conservative government’s energy plan sets a 20 per cent emission reduction by 2020 through national caps on four types of emissions.

Fentie is right to reject the carbon tax, but he’s failed to devise a proper alternative, said Hardy.

“Their negative response does not indicate any alternative,” he said.

“They still don’t understand the seriousness facing the North.”

Fentie released a climate change action plan this spring.

The draft plan will identify greenhouse gas emissions and set targets in the future.

It was widely criticized for its lack of action.

More than government targets and tax policies, people should be encouraged to change their lifestyle, said Hardy.

A fundamental shift in thinking is needed.

“Individuals are making choices — riding their bike more or taking less trips in the car,” said Hardy.

There are northern examples of such changes.

When Juneau, Alaska, residents were forced off hydro power and faced large power bill increases, there was a 30 per cent reduction in energy use, said Hardy.