Higher taxes the cost of sustainability

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

January 10, 2008 Ed Cartoon

The National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy, an advisory panel assembled by the Harper government, released a report Monday stating the only way to alter Canada’s emissions is to change market behaviour with a tax.

The panel calls for a carbon tax that sets a long-term path for cutting emissions between 60 and 70 per cent from 2006 levels by the year 2050.

Environmentalists and economists hope to regulate greenhouse gas reductions similar to how lead was regulated out of gasoline in the latter half of the 20th Century.

There are some pitfalls in the concept that are at best inconvenient and at worst harmful to regional economies in Canada. Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion have rejected the idea of a carbon tax because it is considered political suicide.

While any degree of added taxation does not help a politician’s chances of being re-elected, Canadians will not change their lifestyle until they feel it in the pocketbook.

A carbon tax would encourage Canadian consumers to buy fuel-efficient vehicles and be mindful of their energy consumption. In the commercial and industrial sectors, both corporate and small-business owners would be cognizant of energy efficient alternatives to limit expenses.

Ecological experts agree that global warming is a real problem that is not going away. Fossil fuels are not a sustainable form of energy and people will have to be weaned off of them eventually. At this point, action is more valuable than talk.

If the federal government eventually decides to get on board with a carbon tax, it could include other ideas to smooth the transition. Offering more rebates for all types of fuel-efficient vehicles " rather than merely hybrids " would further convince Canadians to invest in efficient transportation.

Also, as Elizabeth May, leader of the Green Party proposed, perhaps some of the proceeds of the carbon tax could be redirected into income tax reductions.

A panel including economic and environment experts agreed a carbon tax is the best way to restrict greenhouse gases with the least amount of damage to the economy. When a nation’s entire economy is based around things jeopardizing our sustainability, we must gradually make a shift.

No working Canadian likes taxes, but Canada will make the job of looking after the environment easier if it gets started with such initiatives as the carbon tax sooner rather than later.

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