Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The BC Budget: It's A Start

As a Vancouverite, I had been anticipating a carbon tax as proposed by the Campbell government prior to yesterday's budget announcement by Finance Minister Carole Taylor. And, as expected, the "Green Budget" delivered just that, along with a promise that revenues generated from the tax will be returned in varying forms of incentives and other tax relief. Some budget highlights:
    • Beginning July 1, B.C. will begin phasing in a carbon tax on all fossil fuels, including gasoline, diesel, natural gas, coal, propane and home heating fuel.
    • The rate starts at $10 per tonne of carbon-equivalent emissions and will rise by $5 per year for the next four years.
    • As of July 1, there will be a 2.41¢ increase per litre in gasoline. By 2012, it will be 7.24 cents per litre.
    • For diesel and home heating oil, it works out to 2.2 cents per litre, rising to 8.27 cents by 2012.
    • The tax will generate about $1.85 billion over three years.
    • Two-thirds of the money raised in the first year will come from business.
    • The tax is to be revenue neutral and none of the money raised through the carbon tax will go toward program spending.
Personally, I'm ok with this budget. The price hike at the pump will hurt a bit, but frankly I drive a small, fuel-efficient car - and I don't even drive it that much. The $100 carbon tax rebate that will be paid to all BC residents this year will more than cover any added expenses. Is it perfect? No, but it seems a decent start to officially addressing the issue of fossil fuel consumption and carbon emissions. And it's far more progressive than anything the federal government has done to date.
In its last budget, the [BC] government announced the most aggressive carbon emission reduction in North America, vowing to cut emissions by one-third within 12 years....Last month in Vancouver, federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said he was not in favour of provinces taking patchwork action, preferring a national approach to cutting emissions linked to global warming.
But as we all know, waiting for the Conservatives to take action on greenhouse gases is like Waiting for Godot. So the BC budget may not be perfect...but it's a start.


Anonymous said...

Good Post! I tend to agree with the budget as well . . . I like the concrete move.

And in a totally selfish and unrelated question, do you have a larger copy or link to that photo! I'd love to download a larger or more detailed version for a desktop background.

If so, can you email it to me?

Red Canuck said...

Joseph - Thanks. I haven't had a chance to study the budget in great detail, but on the face of it, it looks pretty decent.

Regarding the picture, I actually just picked it off the web. If you click on the pic in my post, it will take you to a larger version which you can presumably save to your desktop. Alternatively you can find a large version of the pic here.

MD said...

Sounds like a reasonable budget. Here in Ontario, when the government makes its relatively modest attempts at sustainable development policies, it takes a lot of heat from the PC official opposition. I suspect the BC Liberals are somewhat more community backing can be taken for granted, it will never go to the NDP. Also, the BC gov't doesn't have the same impetus to protect the auto industry as the Ontario government.

Red Canuck said...

MD - It's true that the BC Libs have little to fear in the way of political backlash from the private sector in the way that that Ontario Libs do. Which makes me wonder: do you think the McGuinty Liberals would ever propose a similar carbon-tax budget even if they could so without the requisite Ontario PC ire?

I ask because irrespective of the Conservative position, the Ontario Liberals are quite dependant on the support of the auto sector and manufacturing industries - both of which are suffering at the moment.

MD said...

You're right, all politics is local. Quebec's support of Kyoto and Alberta's antagonism towards it has a lot more to do with lucrative exports of clean hydroelectric power vs dirty oil than any ideology. I remember watching with some amusement as "progressive" Bloc Quebecois MPs vociferously opposed the federal crackdown on tobacco sponsorship in the 90s, because they didn't want to lose Big Tobacco money in Quebec's sports/cultural events. Similarly, no Ontario party can afford to crack down too hard on industrial emissions.

Having said that, I have to give credit where credit is due. McGuinty has proven himself willing to face down a storm and do the right thing when something important is at stake (a trait I hadn't given him credit for when he was in opposition). The controversial health tax is one example. I think he would be characteristically cautious, but I suspect he would move further than he has so far on the environment if the PCs were not a factor.

Abdul-Rahim said...

I've heard about highway investment, but is there a good amount for public transport, which I believe in BC at least Vancouver is very important.

Red Canuck said...

Abdul-Rahim - That's a good question. There wasn't much announced in the budget with regard to public transit, but as I understand it, $370 million dollars over 4 years were allocated for improvements and expansion to public transportation.

Also, back in January, the province announced a $14 billion dollar Transit Plan that will be funded by municipal, provincial and federal money and will involve construction of a couple of new Skytrain lines in Vancouver, a RapidBus System in the lower mainland and upgrades to clean energy bus fleets.