Trudeau’s Soot Tax to be a dark day for NWT
“The reality is, if you pollute, you’re going to have to pay. There are going to be segments of the population — and industry is part of that — who are going to see a cost. It was in the platform (in 2015) we would be moving forward, I knew it was in the plan, and I knew when I ran.”
— NWT Liberal MP Michael McLeod, interview, March 2018.
“People waking up on (Sept.) 1, 2019 will first see prices at gas pumps have shot up – 4.7 cents per litre at first, increasing to 11.7 cents by 2020. Then over a short period of time, they will notice certain goods and services will also be more expensive. Everything we depend on to survive and house ourselves up here – food, clothing, building materials – will be subject to higher transportation cost as the trucks coming north will be paying more for fuel.”
— James O’Connor, Yellowknifer column, July 2018
Hey folks … on Sept. 1, the economy of the NWT’s economy will start to tank — starting with a spike in the price you pay to fill your gas tanks.
I’m sure you haven’t forgotten the country elected Justin “Sunny Ways” Trudeau in 2015. And remember that pesky election promise he made? The federal Liberals had to prove they were woke enough to impose a tax on carbon. That’s that black stuff otherwise known as soot that is produced from burning things.
In the North, we burn fuel to, well … live. We need tough vehicles to get around, we need to fly in and out of the NWT’s 33 communities, we need to stay warm as it gets rather chilly up here in winter.
While it would be great if pollution were to be curbed across the world, certain parts of this country simply can’t be expected to sing in harmony with the taxing tune played by Justin & The Grits. Even with the lyrics being updated from “global warming,” to “climate change” to the current “climate crisis” refrain. (What next? Climate armageddon? Oh, my!)
In fact, the evolving climate doesn’t usually rank as a top concern of many people. In fact, it usually is well down the list of concerns people want their governments to take action on. Well below better health care, jobs, improved public housing and lower taxes.
A new Nanos Research survey shows majority of Canadians are worried — or somewhat worried — about the increasing price of gas. An issue aggravated by Trudeau’s Soot Tax.
The survey, commissioned by CTV News, found that 38 per cent of Canadians are worried and 32 per cent are somewhat worried about rising fuel costs.
With an eye to the fall’s federal election campaign — and of special concern to the governing Liberals — more than half of the Canadians surveyed, reported CTV, said they think the carbon tax is an ineffective (36 per cent) or somewhat ineffective (19 per cent) way to encourage people to cut down on their fuel use.
In the days and weeks after Sept. 1, vehicles that move the materials around the city and territory will be paying higher gas prices.
“It’s the extra tax on gasoline that will have the immediate kind of impact that people will notice,” deputy minister of Finance David Stewart told me at a media conference last year. “Other taxes for trucking coming into the North, those sorts of things, there certainly will be an impact on that. That maybe will eventually impact consumer prices. That’s why we did the cost of living offset.”
Moving companies, delivery companies — even the pizza places — will have to deal with higher gas prices. That, logically, means passing those increased costs along to consumers.
Interestingly, Trudeau has peddled rebates for his carbon tax through income tax returns through much of Canada before it even has been fully implemented across the country. These Climate Action Incentives have been dismissed as a cynical election ploy by his critics.
We’re being faced with this egregious intrusion into our daily lives ultimately thanks to Trudeau’s signing the Paris Climate Agreement in 2015. That’s the questionably ambitious scheme to deal with greenhouse-gas-emissions — to which some major global polluters are not a part of and the United States is poised to withdraw from.
In my previous role as editor of Yellowknifer, I had attended the media conference a few days earlier when NWT Finance Minister Robert C. McLeod came clean over how the NWT was going to respond to the Trudeau government’s carbon tax scheme.
The GNWT was, after all, a tepidly reluctant signatory to the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change
“The made in the North approach balances implementing carbon pricing as a tool to incent behaviours to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, with investments in initiatives and programs that lead to greater use of renewable and cleaners fuels, while ensuring that we minimize impacts on the cost of living and doing business in the NWT,” stated a GNWT news release.
Yeah, I just don’t see how further increasing the already ultra-expensive cost of living in the NWT will “incent behaviours” — it’s more likely to incent people and businesses to leave. Or to look for a political party with a better plan to combat air pollution than the Liberals.
I still remember the Give a Hoot, Don’t Pollute ad campaign from the ’70s. Anti-pollution initiatives are not new in Canada and across the globe. But the ferocity of the carbon tax being wielded like a political axe through the economy and into people’s wallets is astonishingly poor policy.
Sure, developing green energy alternatives to replace the diesel-burning power plants used across the NWT for power would be great, but it’s going to cost millions — if not billions — and will take years and years to implement.
And I do think every country across the globe needs to work to reduce emissions to try and mitigate future damage.
However, one country alone — such as Canada — or even a group of countries won’t have much impact if some of the worst offenders aren’t joining in. Hello China, India, Russia, etc.
And the tiny impact any reduction in fuel use in the NWT will have on the big picture just isn’t worth the problems it will cause for us.
I am not a climate change denier. Obviously, the Earth’s climate changes over time. And the planet has been getting slightly warmer in recent decades.
But I’m not going to let those fluctuations in weather — which have been heavily politicized — dominate my every waking minute. The science is not settled on the effect man-made pollution is having on the slow rolling global heat wave.
But the hype on global warming is white-hot.
What with click-bait headlines such as this recent one from Chatelaine Magazine (yes, it apparently is still a thing):
“This Yellowknife ER Doctor is raising the alarm about the mental health impact of climate change: Anxiety, PTSD and depression are just the beginning.”
The piece itself provided no hard evidence, just anecdotes of what could be happening. But, of course, the conclusion is that a carbon tax is the answer.
“Carbon pricing,” Chatelaine quoted Dr. Howard as saying, “is the best tool available for tackling the public health issues resulting from climate change. She compared it to efforts to reduce tobacco consumption.
Umm, people still smoke. A lot.
And then there was this local perspective from Dr. Howard in Chatelaine:
Some of the mental health impacts of climate change are directly related to physical effects. Extreme forest fires around Yellowknife in 2014 led to people feeling lonely, isolated and anxious because of their inability to get outside and do things like berry picking and walking, said Howard.
Hmmm. Why did I bother reading that silly report. Just made me mad. After hearing this week that the NWT last year had one of the slowest fire seasons on record, with 59 fires and almost 16,000 hectares burned.
But then I saw (and clicked on) this story from CBC’s The Current last month:
“This woman won’t have children because of climate change. She says she’s not alone.”
It’s good that she’s not alone. She clearly needs help.
And this caught my eye recently from Yellowknifer:
“Young Yellowknifers strike for action on climate change.”
Some of the picketing students admitted they were missing school for the protest. Did they have permission? Did their teachers encourage them to attend? Yellowknife Centre MLA Julie Green and Range Lake MLA Kevin O’Reilly were at the post office rally, supporting the teenagers.
The green kids were on strike from school again on May 24 outside the NWT Legislative Assembly, this time garnering praise on Twitter from Yellowknife North MLA Cory Vanthuyne. Again, while I’m not criticizing the student’s anti-pollution position, I just don’t understand how they can skip school for the cause.
Oh, but I digress. Back to the economy killing Trudeau Soot Tax.
To date, I haven’t heard how the rebate plan will actually work in the NWT. But after not seeing the Climate Action Incentive on my 2018 professionally completed return, ratepayers here will have to fork over cash first before seeing rebates. Those give-backs being $260 annually per adult and and $300 for each child for the soot levy.
For small business, rebated amounts for heating fuel could range annually from about $1,000 to more than $5,000 depending on the nature of the business. But nothing for the fuel used in vehicles.
Apart from its solution to Trudeau’s carbon pricing boondoggle, the GNWT is really working to address the changing weather patterns.
On May 1, 2018, the GNWT released the 2030 NWT Climate Change Strategic Framework. It has three key goals: transition to a lower carbon economy; improve knowledge of climate change impacts; and build resilience and adapt to a changing climate.
There is also a naturally occuring move towards society thinking greener. Corporations and industry will repond to the market’s demands, becoming more climate aware as consumers demand it.
But a heavy-handed and politically motivated carbon tax is the wrong way to go. It will only work to build resentment in people like me towards the whole green movement.
But Canadians will have a chance to vote on the carbon tax in the federal election this fall.
The carbon tax is bound to be a top campaign issue, with Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer quoted as saying he’ll scrap the tax if elected.
That position is sure to see many people kicking the Tories’ electoral tires as they feel the pressure of increased prices at the pump.
Ed. note: Top image of gas pump nozzle sourced through Wikimedia Commons.
Update: On June 5, the GNWT decided to push back implementation of the carbon tax to Sept. 1 from July 1, citing a legislative backlog. The copy above has been edited to reflect that change.