by Monte Solberg
Would an NDP government impose a carbon tax?
The Conservatives are telling anyone who will listen that the answer is yes.
The notion was roundly mocked by the NDP because as we know, they would never impose a tax. They would, however, introduce a cap-and-trade system which would raise the prices of goods and services. So, the impact is the same as a tax hike.
The point should be moot because the Conservatives have already moved to cut greenhouse gas emissions through regulation of automobiles and electricity generation with the oilsands to come next. Yes, and that regulation will also eventually raise prices because the higher costs associated with meeting the targets get passed back to consumers.
But here’s the important point. The Conservatives have been reluctant to move on this because they worried about potential job losses and the impact on the economy. Their plan eases in higher standards over time so that industry can adjust. As far as the NDP are concerned, the Conservatives have not gone far enough or fast enough.
I know the NDP are trying very hard to make themselves look normal. Thomas Mulcair has even taken to calling himself Tom. He’s gone out and got himself a personality transplant. He used to be, shall we say, prickly. Now he’s just smiling Tom and the nicest fella you could ever meet.
But what Tom can’t cover up are his awful instincts on the economy.
For starters, it’s important to remember that all of the things he advocates, he’s advocating during a period of extreme economic turmoil. That little factoid might give pause to less-zealous social democrats, but Tom is a true believer.
He blames resource extraction in general and the oilsands in particular for the tepid performance of the manufacturing sector. He calls it “Dutch Disease” and believes we need a weak dollar crutch for manufacturing.
Or, to look at it another way, he would impose heavy restrictions on oil and gas development in the form of cap-and-trade, hoping this would weaken the dollar. In turn, that would mean Canadian companies and resources would be available at fire sale prices to the rest of the world.
Cheaper oil exports would mean cheaper gasoline for the Americans (though not for Canadians). In turn, that would lead to more carbon emissions which I’m pretty sure Tom opposes.
Then, of course, the NDP committed to raising corporate taxes in the last election campaign. How this would help the manufacturing sector or job creation is not clear.
What about other economic issues like free trade? After all, Canada is a trading nation. Much of our wealth comes from exports.
You can bet the NDP would not be pursuing free-trade agreements. Every time the Conservatives propose a new trade arrangement, the NDP point to some sector that would face increased competition while ignoring the other five that would benefit.
The debate about what constitutes a carbon tax is an interesting intellectual exercise, but it’s a side issue compared to Tom Mulcair’s grand plan to entirely remake the Canadian economy.
Categories: Contributor Columns