B.C. Finance Committee’s budget recommendations are encouraging

Blog - Nov. 18, 2014 - By Matt Horne

Kudos to B.C.’s Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services: while they likely won’t win a catchy-name award, the committee’s six Liberal and four NDP members have made six constructive climate and clean energy-focused recommendations for B.C.’s 2015 budget. The recommendations, released in the Committee’s recent report, deserve some recognition.

I appreciate the committee’s recommendations for three reasons:

  1. The Committee recognizes the good building blocks already in place from B.C.’s Climate Action Plan and recommends using the provincial budget as an opportunity to move elements of that plan forward.
  2. They highlight the economic potential of further climate action, which is often overlooked. While the environmental challenges of climate change are obviously important, many technical and policy solutions also represent beneficial economic opportunities.
  3. They provide some forward-looking ideas for the carbon tax, including the recommendation to consider broadening its coverage. It also took a constructive approach in dealing with industry’s competitiveness concerns by recommending approaches that preserve the carbon tax’s incentive to cut carbon pollution. This is much better than introducing carbon tax exemptions to address competitiveness concerns, which the Committee has recommended in the past.

Finance Minister de Jong will have the final say on which of these recommendations are included in the 2015 budget. My general recommendation would be the same one that I made in a presentation to the Committee in September: Use the provincial budget as one of the tools to advance Climate Action Plan 2.0. That advice still holds and the Committee has offered a number of ideas that would help to move the budget in that direction.

Here are the Committee’s climate and clean energy recommendations, in its own words,:

  1. Embrace a clean energy and energy conservation strategy and build upon the success of the clean energy sector and programs (e.g., LiveSmart BC and Innovative Clean Energy Fund) to enable B.C. economic development, with prominent participation by First Nations.
  2. Review the small business venture capital program budget to promote greater venture capital investment in early-stage tech companies, and seek a partnership with the federal government to help support the expansion of the technology sector by leveraging private investment to enhance necessary venture capital.
  3. Secure long-term, stable funding for public transit and transportation infrastructure identified in the Provincial Transit Plan and regional plans.
  4. Provide incentives for greater use of electric vehicles, including purchase rebates, provincial sales tax exemptions, and financial support for the installation of chargers in homes and businesses.
  5. Consider a plan to apply the carbon tax to measurable carbon emissions which are currently omitted from coverage.
  6. Identify options, consistent with the purpose of incenting greenhouse gas reduction, that mitigate the impacts on domestic manufacturers and producers (such as the cement industry and agriculture) who face inequitable competition from imports.

Matt Horne

Matt Horne was the Pembina Institute's associate regional director for British Columbia until 2016.


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