Your pick: petrol prices or the planet

The Liberals and NDP want you to pay more at the gas pump, warns Ryan Leef. Recently, the Conservative candidate came out swinging at his opponents' proposals to fight climate change.

The Liberals and NDP want you to pay more at the gas pump, warns Ryan Leef.

Recently, the Conservative candidate came out swinging at his opponents’ proposals to fight climate change.

Both the Liberals and NDP want to use a cap-and-trade system to put a price on carbon emissions.

Under this scheme, companies need permits to pollute. Energy-efficient companies with credits to spare could sell their surplus to carbon-emitting companies that need them.

The Conservatives floated the same idea as recently as 2008. But “it clearly wasn’t something that looked feasible, in the big picture, so it got dropped,” said Leef.

Now the Conservatives plan to fight climate change through eco-friendly subsidies and tougher regulations. Scant information is available on precisely what these new rules would entail.

But “if we can accomplish things without taxing, and without a complicated and convoluted system, that’s the way to go,” said Leef.

Climate change remains a big concern, said Leef.

“I agree we need to do something, sooner rather than later, and it’s going to take some drastic steps.”

But putting a price on carbon would hurt Yukoners, said Leef. Residents who heat their homes with oil through the cold winter would pay even higher bills, he said.

And Leef expressed concern that market-based solutions to fighting climate change may not work in the North, because businesses often face little threat from competitors entering their market.

This is an “odd” position for someone to take who purports to represent the party of free enterprise, said John Streicker, the Green Party’s Yukon candidate.

“It’s so strange how it’s twisted around.”

His party wants to see Canada introduce a carbon tax. Like cap-and-trade, it would make it profitable for companies to run greener operations.

But a tax would be more difficult for companies to dodge. Cap-and-trade would be vulnerable to companies exploiting loopholes in the system, said Streicker.

Either way, Canada needs to put a price on carbon if it wants to lower emissions, according to the National Round Table on the Economy and Environment, a think-tank that reports to the federal Minister of Environment.

The Greens would give northerners a tax break to offset the pain of paying more on fuel. And they’d permanently offer subsidies to retrofit homes, starting with low-income housing.

“What’s going to be really bad for the Yukon is climate change itself. The North is going to be hit hard,” said Streicker.

“We need to be working to ensure Yukoners need less oil and gas,” he said. “So that when prices rise, and they will, we’ll be exposed less. That’s the real long-term solution.”

Yukon’s Liberal MP, Larry Bagnell, agrees.

“Industry is going to have to sharpen their pencils,” he said. “But they’ll be more efficient in the long run.”

And that ought to help Canada become competitive in creating green technology to sell to the rest of the world.

“In the long run, this is going to make things cheaper.”

Home retrofit money on offer by the Liberals would ensure “Yukoners are going to be able to use less heating fuel,” said Bagnell. And that’s “going to save people money.”

The NDP has similar plans. And it wants to offer a tax break on home-heating costs, said candidate Kevin Barr.

Canada has a responsibility to reduce its emissions, he said. “We do want a place for our kids to live in.”

Contact John Thompson at

johnt@yukon-news.com.

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