B.C. byelection candidates sound off on the future of the carbon taxEight candidates answer survey on climate change issues

Blog - Jan. 29, 2016 - By Stephen Hui

An electric vehicle and solar panels in Vancouver. Photo: David Dodge, Green Energy Futures.

On February 2, voters in two British Columbia ridings will head to the polls for provincial byelections.

With the recent adoption of the Paris Agreement and B.C.’s second Climate Leadership Plan consultation underway, climate change could be one of the deciding issues at the ballot box. 

The Pembina Institute invited all candidates in the Vancouver–Mount Pleasant and Coquitlam–Burke Mountain byelections to compete a brief survey on climate-change issues in B.C. 

Eight candidates responded to our 2016 B.C. Byelection Candidate Survey, including those of the B.C. Green Party, B.C. Liberal Party and B.C. NDP.

The four survey questions were preceded by the following preamble:

B.C.’s Climate Leadership Team has delivered a package of recommendations to the provincial government on how to reduce carbon pollution, regain its climate leadership and maintain a strong economy. The team was composed of experts from the business, academic and environmental communities as well as representatives from the provincial government, First Nations and local governments.

One of the survey questions focused on B.C.’s carbon tax, which the provincial government froze at $30 per tonne in 2013 for five years.

What follows are the survey question and the candidates’ answers.

Vancouver-Mount Pleasant candidates

Do you support the Climate Leadership Team’s recommendation to increase B.C.’s carbon tax by $10 per tonne per year starting in 2018 (and use the revenue to lower the PST from 7% to 6%, protect low-income households, and implement measures to maintain the competiveness of emissions-intensive industry)?

Gavin Dew (BC Liberal Party) 

Today, we are seeing increasing recognition across the world that carbon pricing is necessary to reduce GHG emissions. We are proud that the BC Liberal government introduced North America’s first and most comprehensive carbon tax. Since introducing the carbon tax, we have proven that you can reduce carbon emissions and still make BC an attractive place to invest and do business. We’ve shown that you can grow a diverse economy and keep taxes low for British Columbians while taking effective steps on climate action.

Our carbon tax is held up across the world as the model to follow, receiving praise in the Economist, the New York Times and the LA Times as a leading environmental policy. As well, BC’s carbon tax was described by World Bank President Jim Yong Kim as “one of the most powerful” examples of carbon pricing in 2014.

In 2013, we made a commitment to freeze the carbon tax at $30 per tonne for five years. We wanted to allow other jurisdictions to catch up to BC to ensure our businesses were not at a competitive disadvantage. While BC remains a global leader, we are beginning to see others bringing in different forms of carbon pricing. After 2018, BC will consider increasing the revenue neutral carbon tax, provided that four conditions are in place:

  • Revenue-neutrality must be maintained. Any increases must be offset with tax reductions elsewhere.
  • An increased carbon tax must be affordable for British Columbia families, including low income and vulnerable people.
  • There has to be a mechanism in place to keep industries that are emission-intensive and trade-exposed competitive with other jurisdictions.
  • The competitiveness of BC businesses has to be maintained.

Pete Fry (BC Green Party)

I support the recommendation to increase carbon tax, and that has been a long standing BC Green plank (Party Leader, Andrew Weaver helped to develop BC's original carbon tax which was effectively dismantled by the Clark government). I'm not prepared to offer support for the idea of lowering the PST at this time. While I agree that consumption taxes are regressive when they hurt low-income households, I'm not sure reducing the PST is the most effective way to do so, nor should that decision result from the Climate Leadership Team's recommendation alone.

Jeremy Gustafson (YPP)

Yes to $10/tonne per year after 2018, would prefer dropping PST only 0.5%, using other 0.5% to aggressively develop alternative clean energy sources (wind/solar/geothermal) starting in the communities currently relying on diesel generators.

Melanie Mark (BC NDP)

Putting a price on carbon pollution must form the basis of an effective climate action plan. Christy Clark froze the carbon tax for five years and climate emissions spiked during that time. The BC NDP believes more needs to be done which is why our 2013 election platform proposed expanding the carbon tax to include pollution from the oil and gas sector, as well as using the carbon tax for increased investments in transit to reduce congestion and fight climate change.

An effective climate action plan needs to include measures to increase equality and economic competitiveness. The BC NDP caucus is investigating ways the carbon tax can be improved and enhanced. I want to bring my voice and experience as a life-long advocate to those discussions and look forward to the opportunity to do so.

Coquitlam-Burke Mountain candidates

Do you support the Climate Leadership Team’s recommendation to increase B.C.’s carbon tax by $10 per tonne per year starting in 2018 (and use the revenue to lower the PST from 7% to 6%, protect low-income households, and implement measures to maintain the competiveness of emissions-intensive industry)?

Paul Geddes (Libertarian)

Not really. I have no idea how a team of exports can figure out the correct price to fix any possible external costs imposed by carbon on our atmosphere. Any such price is clumsily based on speculative guesstimates of unknown unknowns. On the other hand, this type of tax is likely to do less damage than the horrible PST.

Joan Isaacs (BC Liberal Party)

Today, we are seeing increasing recognition across the world that carbon pricing is necessary to reduce GHG emissions. We are proud that the BC Liberal government introduced North America’s first and most comprehensive carbon tax. Since introducing the carbon tax, we have proven that you can reduce carbon emissions and still make BC an attractive place to invest and do business. We’ve shown that you can grow a diverse economy and keep taxes low for British Columbians while taking effective steps on climate action.

Our carbon tax is held up across the world as the model to follow, receiving praise in the Economist, the New York Times and the LA Times as a leading environmental policy. As well, BC’s carbon tax was described by World Bank President Jim Yong Kim as “one of the most powerful” examples of carbon pricing in 2014. 

In 2013, we made a commitment to freeze the carbon tax at $30 per tonne for five years. We wanted to allow other jurisdictions to catch up to BC to ensure our businesses were not at a competitive disadvantage. While BC remains a global leader, we are beginning to see others bringing in different forms of carbon pricing. After 2018, BC will consider increasing the revenue neutral carbon tax, provided that four conditions are in place:

  • Revenue-neutrality must be maintained. Any increases must be offset with tax reductions elsewhere.
  • An increased carbon tax must be affordable for British Columbia families, including low income and vulnerable people.
  • There has to be a mechanism in place to keep industries that are emission-intensive and trade-exposed competitive with other jurisdictions.
  • The competitiveness of BC businesses has to be maintained.

Joe Keithley (BC Green Party)

The BC Green Party has led the way in supporting the increase in BC's carbon tax, so the answer is yes to the first part of the question. But now is not the time to reduce the sales tax, it would only spur a cut in services by Christy Clark and that would hurt lower income families the most. We should use the carbon tax increase to pay for transit improvements.

Jodie Wickens (BC NDP)

I believe putting a price on carbon pollution, while implementing measures to increase equality, and economic competitiveness must form the basis of an effective climate action plan. Unlike Christy Clark who froze the carbon tax for five years while climate emissions spiked we believe more needs to be done. That is why in the 2013 election the BC NDP proposed expanding the carbon tax to include pollution from the oil and gas sector, as well as using the carbon tax for increased investments in transit to reduce congestion and fight climate change.

Over the coming months, the BC NDP caucus will be exploring all options to enhance and improve the carbon tax, which is an essential component to a successful climate action plan. I believe that I can bring an important voice to the caucus table on these discussions.

For the candidates’ responses to all of the questions, see the 2016 B.C. Byelection Candidate Survey backgrounder.

 

Want more information on the B.C. Climate Leadership Plan from the Pembina Institute? Sign up for updates by emailing ClimateLeadership@pembina.org.


Stephen Hui

Stephen Hui is the communications lead for British Columbia at the Pembina Institute. He lives in Vancouver.


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