A piece in the Sydney Morning Herald argues that tax cuts for young people will not be popular because they would rather have climate action than money. “Such financial inducements miss a key point. Last year, as the world’s largest iceberg broke off an Antarctic ice shelf, thousands of school students (and future voters) assembled for school climate strikes in more than 50 locations around Australia.” Perhaps. But school kids don’t yet pay taxes and they may take a different view once they start. Plus you told them climate action would bring us more money not less. They may not be impressed when they discover that you were liars, fools or both. Unfortunately Australia isn’t the only place where the government is finding it difficult to see the point of cutting taxes. Here in Ontario the provincial Tories pledged during their successful 2018 election campaign to cut gas taxes, which would partially mitigate the rapid rise in federal carbon taxes. But now they’re saying they might not because words are so much easier than deeds even amidst the energy crisis unfolding in Europe and inflation and $2.00/litre gas (in British Columbia and very recently yes in Timmins Ontario as well). So maybe Australian politicians should see how reneging on gas tax cuts work for Ford before assuming the youth of today will want them to take their cash tomorrow.
As Lorrie Goldstein notes in the Toronto Sun, this flippity semi-flop by Ontario Premier Doug Ford follows his abandoning a pledge to lower hydro rates by 12%. To which party mandarins reply that they aren’t really breaking their promise, because hydro prices are going to be 12% lower by 2025 than they would have been if the other stinking party, those wretched high-tax Liberal villains, had won. And since nobody can know what the Liberals might have done if given seven more years in office, it’s a proposition incapable of refutation. But only because it means nothing. Despite which it flatly contradicts what they really promised so it manages to be incomprehensible and deceitful simultaneously.
Typical of the level of discourse is the Ontario minister of the environment chirping on Twitter that “Ontario can build the economy AND protect the environment. The NDP and the Liberals have always fallen short on both.” And then telling us in a video that “WE NEED REAL CLIMATE SOLUTIONS… NOT ENDLESS NDP/LIBERAL TAX” as a reason not to keep your promise to get rid of a Liberal tax.
As Goldstein adds, Ford was also very clear in 2018 that they would lower gas prices by 10 cents per litre by 2022. “He said he would do this by scrapping Kathleen Wynne’s cap-and-trade scheme, cutting 4.3 cents per litre off the price of gasoline, and lower the provincial gasoline tax of 14.7 cents per litre by 5.7 cents, to nine cents per litre.” And he actually did get rid of cap and trade, though it was immediately replaced by the federal carbon tax, something Ford either didn’t understand or didn’t level with voters about.
Goldstein further notes that “as late as November of last year, Ford repeated his pledge to lower the provincial gasoline tax by 5.7 cents per litre by the time he unveils the province’s 2022-23 budget, meaning by April 30 at the latest.” Instead he’s calling on Trudeau to skip his carbon tax increase (from 8.8 to 11 cents/litre), apparently because it’s not fair for Ottawa to get our money when it’s rightfully his. Naturally Trudeau is not going to do any such thing, because he’s a climate true believer.
Whereas Ford appears to be a cushion bearing the imprint of whatever conventional progressive notion last sat on him, from mask mandates to the Emergencies Act to the glories of socialized medicine. He is of course a climate change true believer when it suits him. And if you are such a thing, then it is absurd to promise to cut gas taxes since the whole idea is to price the stuff out of reach of the average suburban swing voter, and poor person, to save us from ourselves and usher us into the Green New Eden. He promised it anyway (see suburban swing voter). And we shall see if it’s cunning, principled or just as muddled as it sounds.
We are by now thoroughly accustomed to headlines like “Gas prices hit all-time high in Ottawa”, partly by the experience of going to the pump. Which means we are testing the theory that voters are all in on climate change and willing to pay any price.