Because his Green Energy Act makes no sense if he doesn’t
by Lorrie Goldstein, Toronto Sun
Here are four big reasons why you shouldn’t believe Premier Dalton McGuinty when he says he will not impose a carbon tax if he wins the Oct. 6 Ontario election. And why there’s also no reason to believe his claim the cap-and-trade market he intends to create — basically a carbon tax by another name — is years away from reality, if it ever happens.
(1) Last week, Liberal MPP David Levac said twice during an interview with our sister paper, the Brantford Expositor, the McGuinty Liberals are considering a carbon tax. While he later claimed to have confused a carbon tax with cap-and-trade, for which McGuinty has already passed enabling legislation and issued regulations, it’s very hard to believe that.
Levac is the parliamentary assistant to the energy minister, the ministry, along with environment, most directly involved in putting a price tag on industrial carbon dioxide emissions, which is what both a carbon tax and cap-and-trade do.
This is because both initiatives will increase the price of energy, including gasoline, home heating fuels and electricity.
If Levac, as parliamentary assistant to the energy minister, really did confuse a carbon tax with cap-and-trade, he’s incompetent.
Both Tory Leader Tim Hudak and New Democrat MPP Peter Kormos, who have known Levac for years, say there’s no way that’s the case.
(2) What is McGuinty’s promise he’s not considering a carbon tax worth? McGuinty said repeatedly in the 2003 election campaign that brought him to power he wouldn’t raise taxes and signed a pledge not to do so.
And yet, after winning office, he brought in one of the largest tax hikes in Ontario history.
That was before the HST in 2010, after McGuinty again promised in the 2007 campaign he wouldn’t raise taxes.
Look at the fiscal mess Ontario is in and you know McGuinty needs a huge, new revenue source to pay for his big-spending, union-friendly government.
A carbon tax fits the bill because it creates a new revenue stream for government by charging taxpayers for something they’ve never been charged for before.
(3) There’s also reason for skepticism about McGuinty’s claim he will move slowly on establishing a cap-and-trade market and won’t do if it hurts the economy.
Asked about cap-and-trade last week, McGuinty said: “We can’t go there right now because we have no partners, no other people who want to engage in the trading system right now. At the end of the day, if it’s not something that serves to benefit our economy, we’re not going to do it.”
First, recall that McGuinty claimed the HST would benefit our economy, so there’s his excuse for introducing cap-and-trade whenever he wants.
As for having “no partners”, Environment Minister John Wilkinson has been telling green groups in this election Ontario is proud to co-chair the Western Climate Initiative (WCI), a coalition of four provinces – Ontario, B.C., Quebec and Manitoba — working on a regional cap-and-trade market with six U.S. states — California, Washington, Arizona, Montana, Oregon and Utah.
The WCI website (westernclimateinitiative.org) describes these provinces and states as “WCI partners.”
While he’s now advocating a go slow approach, when Ontario joined WCI three years ago, McGuinty accused Prime Minister Stephen Harper of a “lack of leadership” on the issue, saying Ontario couldn’t afford to wait any longer.
A more plausible explanation for McGuinty’s downplaying of cap-and-trade now is that it’s far less politically popular today than in 2008, because the public now understands a carbon tax and cap-and-trade do the same thing — dramatically raise their cost of living.
President Barack Obama’s attempt to introduce cap-and-trade in the U.S. died in Congress and Harper has said Canada won’t proceed without the U.S.
However, Wilkinson told the Globe and Mail in April while Ontario won’t be ready to implement cap-and-trade on Jan. 1, 2012, as originally planned, “We are committed to cap-and-trade through the Western Climate Initiative.”
(4) Finally, none of McGuinty’s green energy initiatives — the Green Energy Act, the Samsung deal, feed-in-tariffs, higher electricity prices, imposing wind turbines on rural communities — make sense unless McGuinty intends to introduce a carbon tax, cap-and-trade, or both.
Given current technology, wind and solar power can only be made competitive with fossil fuel energy if the price of fossil fuels rises dramatically. That’s exactly what a carbon tax and cap-and-trade are designed to do.