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Harper: Insane plan will screw us all

Saturday, June 21, 2008

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  • Prime Minister Stephen Harper

    Prime Minister Stephen Harper

Written by Kyle Leary

Perhaps what makes Stephen Harper’s laughably outrageous partisan attacks on the Liberal party’s recently released carbon tax plan most unfortunate is the irony factor. For one thing, there is the fact that his caucus (and, given his managerial style, we can assume Harper himself) was calling the plan ‘insane’ before they had even seen it- which some people might find a bit crazy in itself. Most unfortunate and ironic, however, is the degree to which Harper’s reaction to the plan blatantly exemplifies the Prime Minister’s chosen modus operandi of selling out his own values in the name of the worst kind of populism.

An economist by training, Harper surely understands the responsibility and opportunity presented to the Canadian Government to shape tax policy in such a way as to create the kind of society all Canadians want. He must also understand that the society we want is one that we will not be ashamed of leaving to our children- a society unachievable if carbon emissions continue to rise until at least 2020, as Harper’s intensity-based emissions plan would have them do. As Jeffery Simpson of the Globe and Mail has put it: “The bottom line is that unless you use economic tools to change behavior, nothing serious will get done… economic policies must therefore be introduced and applied to put a price on emissions. Otherwise, we are fooling ourselves, as Canadians have been doing for two decades now.” And likewise, Harper still continues to fool us today.

If we want to continue enjoying the public goods and quality of life we are so fortunate to have in this prosperous country, we have to tax something; having people pay more tax on carbon and less tax on income is simply good policy. It is also a much more just policy, as individuals have to work and earn income to survive, and thus have very little choice in how much they choose to work. In contrast, individuals have a much greater degree of choice when it comes to how much carbon they emit- they can choose to drive more fuel efficient vehicles, for example (or not drive at all), or be more energy conscious at home, by doing things like drying clothes outside instead of using the dryer. By penalizing people less for doing something they have very little choice in- working- and penalizing people more for doing something they have much more choice in- emitting carbon- the Liberal plan works toward our shared goal and necessity of cutting carbon emissions while also lessening the economic straight-jacket that is the income tax. This is exactly the kind of libertarian leaning economic policy the Prime Minister has believed in since his days with the Reform Party. And yet, instead of (for example) simply stealing the framework of the plan and calling it his own, all we as Canadians and voters get from our leader is politically-motivated fear-mongering. Indeed, while Harper puts forth his strongest argument against the plan, emphatically telling us that it would “actually screw everybody across the country,” it is quite apparent that Harper’s populist and partisan refusal to accept the virtues of broad based income tax cuts coupled with a tax on carbon will screw us far more.

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  1. Posted by: on Jul 29, 2008 @ 5:01pm

    We've moved so far away from what we need our government to achieve.

    A government should be able to cloath, feed and shelter its' cititzens. Check your tags on your shirt (China), check your sticker on your apples from the grocery store (New Zeland) and tell me that having our food and clothes travel 1000's of miles is good for our carbon emissions as a country. These are not even factored into either Dion's plan or Harper's rebuttal.

    If we really want to make a difference it has to be community based. That's where the incentives need to come from and that can only be developed by taxing the goods that stop that (like clothing imports, gasoline prices and food imports).

    Hopefully we wake up and make the shift before it's too late.

  2. Posted by: Maggie Robertson on Jul 31, 2008 @ 8:18pm

    In response to John's comment, I agree. But I agree only to some extent.

    It is difficult, if not impossible, for our country to be able to be self-sufficient. Firstly, with urbanization, most of our viable cropland is being built up. This will not allow us to grow enough cotton to make shirts.

    Moreover, the seasons for apples are opposite in New Zealand. This allows them to grow them when we cannot.

    I realize that these are just examples, but what I am trying to say is that with the amount of people in Canada and with the extreme weather we experience, I don't believe it is possible for our country to be self-sufficient.

    Carbon emissions in this day and age are inevitable. We've become to reliant on our "cushy" lifestyles to be able to change overnight. Maybe Dion's tax will open our eyes to how much we are killing ourselves.

    I have faith that the government sees that the country's imports are adding to the carbon emissions.

  3. Posted by: John Mattucci on Sep 1, 2008 @ 12:32pm

    I agree with Maggie that Canada cannot be entirely self sufficient, especially at our current consumption rate of resources and the lifestyles we are accustomed to. John also makes a valid point about the amount of energy and carbon that is used so that we can have bananas year round that is not addressed by our country's leaders. The carbon tax is a great idea; make those acts that are more polluting cost more, while giving that cost back to us.
    I feel that the carbon tax is not well publicized and explained to the majority of people, and the conservative party have taken that and explained that "it's the ol'tax trick", giving people the wrong impression of this without even knowing what it entails.
    With an election looming, people should know exactly what it means and what it will do, instead of having people take what they know nothing about and having it skewed for political benefit. Canada produces the most waste per person than anywhere else in the world, yet Canadian's say they want to protect their wildlife and environment, those two things being a defining feature of what it means to be a Canadian. I hope our leaders take this to heart the next time a wetland gets paved for a Walmart.

  4. Posted by: Joel Robitaille on Sep 5, 2008 @ 11:14am

    What a great article. If you have a newsletter, sign me up please. I0t is so nice to hear the debate framed around reason instead of it being a response to the insanity of the conservative / reform party.

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