It seems the further you get away from Vancouver, the more hated the carbon tax becomes.
The B.C. government has sent its Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services around the province to hear submissions on what should be included in the 2013-14 provincial budget.
The Vancouver meeting was packed with the usual suspects supporting the carbon tax -- the Pembina Institute, the David Suzuki Foundation, Simon Fraser University's Carbon Talks, Tides Canada, TransLink board chair Nancy Olewiler, Climate Smart Businesses Inc., UBCC350 and the Canadian Wind Energy Association. But the tax is receiving a rough ride elsewhere.
A presenter in Fort St. John made a clear case to kill the carbon tax. Brent Hodson, president of the Fort St. John and District Chamber of Commerce, pointed out that northern chambers want to scrap the tax -- a position identical to the Peace River regional district, which called it "ineffective and discriminatory to residents who live and work in the north."
At the same meeting, Janet Banman of the B.C. Grain Producers Association said an average farmer pays $4,300 a year in carbon tax. "A farmer has to grow approximately 15 acres of food crop just for that carbon tax," Banman pointed out.
Added farmer and local politician Arthur Hadland: "I was a little distressed when I heard the Vancouver mayor doing the rah-rah for the carbon tax. I just was not impressed. The rural areas, the northern areas, are net contributors to that whole infrastructure, and here he wants to suck more out of us."
In Kamloops, resident John Sternig told the committee that 61.5 per cent of carbon tax revenue is redirected in tax breaks to business: "The problem with that tax is with business, if it's a cost and business is able to pass it on, they most certainly will. So the premise of the carbon tax, unfortunately, I don't think, works very well."
Fort Nelson's chamber of commerce called for the carbon tax to be eliminated.
In Kelowna, Kirpal Boparai, president of the B.C. Fruit Growers Association, told the committee, "the carbon tax makes our production costs higher than our [American] competitors."
Susan Clovechok of the Columbia Valley Chamber of Commerce told the committee in Cranbrook that the carbon tax has cost local businesses: "We also have a steel fabricator. For him to gain contracts, his cost of shipping is exorbitant and will often lose him bids because of the cost of transportation."
It's easy for Lower Mainlanders, blessed with multiple transit lines and mild weather, to suggest ratcheting up the carbon tax. Indeed, Pembina has recommended $200 per tonne as the level of carbon tax necessary for B.C. to meet emissions reduction targets by 2020. That would multiply the current $30 per tonne tax by nearly seven times. Can you afford to add another 40 cents in carbon tax and GST on top of what you already pay for every litre of gas? What will that do to heating bills? Or to the cost of goods and services?
The carbon tax isn't reducing our fuel purchases-- Statistics Canada shows provincial gas and diesel sales for vehicles went up more than 9 per cent from 2008 to 2011.
And despite our carbon tax, B.C. still trails the rest of the country in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. B.C.'s emissions dropped 4.5 per cent from 2007 to 2010; Canada's emissions fell eight per cent during that time. Canada, without a carbon tax, has been nearly twice as successful at cutting greenhouse gas emissions.
It's time for B.C. politicians to listen carefully to what those outside the Lower Mainland are saying: the carbon tax must go.