Monday, 09 January 2017 08:00

Carbon tax is the right step, SACPA told

Written by  Dave Mabell
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Economist Jack Mintz speaks on carbon emissions reduction policies during the weekly meeting of the Southern Alberta Council on Public Affairs. Economist Jack Mintz speaks on carbon emissions reduction policies during the weekly meeting of the Southern Alberta Council on Public Affairs. Southern Alberta Newspapers photo by Ian Martens

Collecting a carbon tax is the right step for Alberta’s government, a Lethbridge audience was assured Dec. 1, but it would be more effective if this province followed British Columbia’s lead, said economist Jack Mintz.

Instead of introducing a complex system of allowances and rebates, he said, the New Democrats could stimulate the economy by using the new revenue to reduce other taxes. Meanwhile, Canadians everywhere need to consider the impacts if president-elect Trump follows through on some of his tax-cut promises.
Mintz, a “fellow” of the School of Public Policy at the University of Calgary, is also a board member of Imperial Oil Ltd. He told participants at the weekly Southern Alberta Council on Public Affairs luncheon that he began floating proposals for a carbon-related tax about a decade ago.
“I do think that carbon taxation is a good policy,” he said.
Along with carbon sequestration and upcoming technological advances, it can help Canadians reduce their impact on processes leading to global warming. While our nation produces less than two per cent of the world’s emissions, he said, Canadians generate far more than their share on a per-capita basis.
“Alberta has it half right,” Mintz said. “B.C. has very much the right approach.”
Their government introduced a carbon tax several years ago, he noted, but it’s surrounded by fewer regulations and exemptions. It’s collected at the consumer level, Mintz said — encouraging citizens to decide how they could reduce their carbon-use footprint.
“It’s relatively well-designed.”
Albertans are just now learning how a carbon tax will affect them, he noted.
“It’s a difficult issue,” and Mintz predicted carbon-reduction policies will continue to evolve.
Providing enough time to consult those who will be most affected could result in a more productive approach, he suggested. That’s what Premier Rachel Notley did when she asked for a review of the royalties collected from oil and gas companies, Mintz said.
“They got very good people involved, and they brought in a very good system,” better than before. “You have to get the right people around the table.”
What’s best, he said, is finding the least expensive way to reduce Canada’s impact on the environment. With the U.S. about to head in the opposite direction — if Trump has his way — that’s likely to become more difficult for all provinces.
To remain competitive, Mintz said, some provinces may be forced to “harmonize” their carbon use policies with states to their south.
“We need to protect our environment for investment,” he maintained, as well as our natural environment for generations to come.
If Canadian governments move too fast, Mintz warned, they risk public backlash which could delay a measured approach to environmental issues.

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