The fight against carbon taxes is the policy fight of our lives

The carbon tax is designed to give the government more power, more money and more top-down control over the economy.

(This column originally appeared in the Toronto Sun)

By: Candice Malcolm

The fight against a national carbon tax is the policy fight of our lifetime. Every taxpayer in the country, and especially every conservative who believes in the principle of limited government, should do everything they can to stop this devastating tax grab.

Make no mistake, the carbon tax initiative is not about protecting the planet. It isn’t designed to lower pollution levels, enable so-called green innovation or even to curb carbon emissions.

The carbon tax is designed to give the government more power, more money and more top-down control over the economy.

Carbon tax advocates, including a handful of misguided conservatives, typically rely on one core argument to promote this tax. They say that carbon taxes use free market principles to change consumer behaviour so that we consume less and produce fewer emissions.  

If carbon is more expensive, it will encourage you to drive less or to put on a sweater instead of turning up the heat. The problem with this line of reasoning is that it requires a tax rate drastically higher than anything being discussed or proposed today.

The EcoFiscal Commission, an Ottawa-based organization that supports a carbon tax, admits the carbon tax rate would need to be significantly higher to have a real impact.

Trudeau’s carbon tax was introduced in 2018 at a rate of $10 per tonne, and yet, EcoFiscal economists project that even if carbon taxes were raised to $200 per tonne it still would not be enough to meet Trudeau’s target of cutting emissions by 30% by 2030.

Even if Trudeau’s tax was 2,000% higher, it still would not be enough.

A $200-a-tonne carbon tax would, however, take more than $100 billion out of the private sector and into the coffers of the government.  

A massive transfer of wealth away from the innovative, creative and productive part of the economy, and towards a growing government bureaucracy will not help the planet. Instead, it will enable a massive tax grab designed to forever increase the size and scope of the government.

We’ve seen this movie before. In the 1980s and `90s, the GST was introduced and sold to Canadians as a “more efficient tax.” Big government activists designed the tax intentionally to appeal to free market conservatives and economists.

They made the argument that people should be taxed on the things they consume rather than the income they earn. And yes, in theory, the optimal tax wouldn’t punish people for working more, but rather, would tax people when they spend rather than save their money.

Of course, the big lie in all of this is that the federal government never planned to introduce a corresponding cut to income taxes. Instead, we’re stuck with both a punitive consumption tax and a punitive income tax. They take our money when we earn it and they take our money when we spend it.

And now, the same brigade of government-knows-best activists have schemed together to introduce another version of the GST, wrapped up as the green, eco-friendly, think-of-the-planet carbon tax.

And worse, by selling this as a market-friendly measure they’ve managed to persuade some otherwise dedicated conservatives.

It doesn’t matter who promotes this idea. Whether it’s coming from Preston Manning, Patrick Brown, Justin Trudeau or Rachel Notley, a carbon tax is not what it seems, and it’s not the right path for Canada. 

Canadians from coast to coast should unite in fighting against it.