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The other boot falls

14 Oct 2020 | News Roundup

A strange alarmist standard claim is that we face a world-historic, civilization-threatening climate crisis we can solve with a few small steps. For instance in Canada a carbon tax too small to affect behaviour. But now we get the bad news: It has to rise sharply to get us to the Paris targets. Which is hardly surprising; if the problem is as big as they say, the solution is going to have to be big as well.

This troubling detail about Canada’s carbon tax comes from Canada’s Parliamentary Budget Office, a post created to try to give Parliament a reliable non-partisan source of data on fiscal and related matters, so our politicians could bicker childishly about PBO reports instead of bickering childishly about other sources of data. Canada’s carbon tax started at a laughable $20/tonne or 4.4 cents/litre of gas in 2019, is now $30/tonne or 6.6 cents/litre, and will rise $10/year to $50/tonne or 11 cents/litre by 2022 after which what will happen is, as usual in Canada, that the authorities say we don’t need to see that information. See, there’s such broad popular support there’s no point telling the populace what the deal is.

Regrettably Parliamentary Budget Officer Yves Giroux has now spoiled that approach, and the party, by saying that, as you know, to have a meaningful impact the carbon tax needs to get to $117/tonne if applied to everyone, and $289/tonne if the government plans to give a break to big industrial emitters, voters (on their household bills) and others liable to cause trouble if squashed by a big tax burden.

We could say something sarcastic about the idea that climate change is such a massive threat to all that is good in the world that it’s worth sacrificing everything for except votes. But instead we’ll say something sarcastic about the fact that everyone has always known what the PBO has just spelled out and nobody has had anything sensible to say about it and still don’t.

The governing Liberals have nothing sensible to say because they claim they’re already saving us from apocalyptic disaster without costing us any money or otherwise inconveniencing us. Indeed, they’re going to give us money, in a thousand different ways including a carbon tax that was somehow going to leave nearly everyone better off thanks to rebates we could use to, say, buy gas at the higher price. The opposition Tories had nothing sensible to say because they’re committed to the Liberals being profligate meanies out to destroy the economy so 4.4 cents/litre had to be massive, while they (the Tories) would stop climate change without costing you money through some plan they didn’t think of yet that was just marvellous beyond compare. And those further green even than the Liberals are also selling us on a pain-free, rapid solution to an Earth-scalding crisis.

Thus almost nobody said out loud that the tax was too small to matter so almost nobody said how much would be enough. Well, nobody who mattered. And now that we have something more like the real number from somebody who sort of matters, nobody is saying anything intelligent or intelligible for the same reasons given above. Especially the part about not being willing to tell voters something will hurt.

Take this press release… please: “The Government of Canada will continue to protect the health and safety of all Canadians, while working towards a safe, sustainable, and green economic recovery from the COVID–19 pandemic.” Again, one could say much that is sarcastic about the expanding political habit of a government saying it will “continue” to do something it has not done, is not doing, and has no idea how to do. But instead the punchline here is that this amazing list of all-at-once cosmic achievements will be achieved by a paltry sum of money and some low-exertion fun. “Today, the Minister of Environment and Climate Change, the Honourable Jonathan Wilkinson, announced approximately $368,000 in federal funding from the Climate Action Fund to support six initiatives by not-for-profit organizations and educational institutions that inspire Canadians to take climate action and promote awareness of climate change in their communities.”

Got that? The government will hand a third of a million bucks to some nice do-gooders to say some stuff. Abracadabra, polar bears saved, coral saved, coastal cities saved, and nobody even had to get out of their chair. Likewise “The Government of Canada will continue to protect the health and safety of all Canadians, and to ensure a safe, sustainable, and greener economic recovery” by… What? What? What amazing, massive initiative will accomplish this marvellous set of goals? Tell us. We must know. Uh “Today, the Member of Parliament for Guelph, Lloyd Longfield, on behalf of the Minister of Environment and Climate Change, the Honourable Jonathan Wilkinson, announced approximately $640,000 from the Low Carbon Economy Fund to support the University of Guelph’s heating system upgrades.” Which as we all know were single-handedly causing temperatures in southwest Ontario to soar to… uh… a high of 17°C this week and a low of -1°C.

Meanwhile over at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, a ministry that if it did not exist nobody would be asking why not, “Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food Marie-Claude Bibeau announced two new projects today totaling close to $900,000 under the Agricultural Clean Technology Program that will help Quebec farmers take action on climate change and capture new and emerging economic opportunities.” Wow. Save the planet and “capture new and emerging economic opportunities” all for well under a million bucks. In key ridings no less.

This game is easy. And everybody wins. Over at Infrastructure Canada some Parliamentary Secretary announced on behalf of no fewer than three ministers who couldn’t be bothered to show up “over $417,000 for an energy efficiency project in four New Brunswick communities through GMF.” If it sounds like pork now comes in green, well, you’re starting to get the idea.

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