The federal government is not telling Nova Scotians the truth

Federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change Steven Guilbeault claims that the carbon tax is a good thing. He says that for four out of five Nova Scotian households, the Climate Action Incentive payments will be greater than what the tax will cost them. That is not true.

The quarterly incentive payment rebates amount to about $1,000 per year for a family of four in Nova Scotia and will begin in July.

That may be enough to offset the carbon taxes they pay when they fill up their cars or fill their oil tanks to heat their homes. But that is only a small part of the taxes that Nova Scotians will be paying. The rest is indirect.

The carbon taxes affect businesses supplying goods and services. The most obvious example is delivery vehicles, especially long-haul trucks bringing in things like fruits, vegetables, breakfast cereals, crackers. That increases the cost in the grocery store.

So does heating that store, whether it be by fossil fuel or electricity. If the latter, there will be an increase in the cost because of the extra carbon levy that Nova Scotia has to pay on the coal it burns. The same can be said of many other retailers. The costs of your dentists, lawyers, and physiotherapists will all go up.

Bulldozers, tractors, dump trucks, and cranes all burn fossil fuels. So the tax adds to the cost of building new houses. If you have an electric car you will be paying levees on the coal that is burned when you charge it up overnight.

The Houston government estimates that the these bring the total cost to a household up to $2,000 per year, double the rebate. The PCs have repeated that in a fundraising letter to supporters. They are understating their case.

Buses, police cars, the Halifax-Dartmouth ferries, garbage trucks, town halls, libraries, and many other municipally-owned assets all burn fossil fuels. They will pay the tax and will not receive any rebate. Your municipal taxes will have to increase to pay for the federal tax.

Ambulances, snowplows, hospitals, buildings housing civil servants, schools, and other provincial assets all burn fossil fuels. They will pay the tax and will not receive any rebate. Your provincial taxes will have to increase to pay for the federal tax.

Universities burn fossil fuels to heat many of their buildings. For example, Dalhousie has a major footprint for the energy used on their campuses. Their projects to mitigate the impact will take time, and do not benefit from federal carbon reduction programs. Nor do they receive any rebate. Tuitions will have to increase to pay for the federal tax.

When asked about this, the federal government replies that all of the indirect tax charges are spent for the benefit of Canadians. Of course, governments say that of every tax, whether or not the money is spent wisely.

Some of the spending is useful, such as supporting ducted heat pumps on new house construction, or houses for which a ducted heat pump retrofit is an option. Heat pumps are not viable for apartment buildings, and labour for retrofits of any kind is hard to find.

Some of the spending is wasted on ill-considered projects, such as the wildly inefficient solar gardens projects in Antigonish, Berwick, and Mahone Bay. Some of it serves other agendas—thus the Low Carbon Economy Fund grants 75% of costs for approved projects by Indigenous communities and organizations, compared to 25% for private sector businesses for the same amount of carbon reduction.

The cost of these pass throughs adds considerably to Houston’s $2,000 estimate of the total cost. The $248 quarterly rebates offset much less than half of the carbon tax’s impact on Nova Scotians.

In principle a carbon tax should diminish consumption. In practice the available alternatives are limited. People have to heat their homes, get to work, and take their kids to hockey practice. Buses (which also burn carbon) are not an option for most workers. We can skip the Sunday drive, but that does not account for much consumption.

The big opportunities for replacing carbon require substantial new sources of green electricity. These are not going to appear quickly. Meanwhile, the carbon tax will more than triple between 2022 and 2030.

The Liberal MP’s who were instructed to parrot Guilbeault’s story are not dumb. They know the cost to Nova Scotians is far larger than the extra they will pay for furnace oil and gasoline. Rather than claiming that the PCs have muddled their math, they should be justifying how the revenue from the indirect carbon taxes is being spent.

Various environmental activists also echoed the minister’s message. The Sierra Club said, in response to Houston’s assertions: “If government leaders, our elected leaders, are allowed to make outrageous claims and nobody’s calling them on it, and they’re allowed to get away with it and fundraise based on those outrageous claims, we’re in trouble — big trouble.”

That is true, but Houston’s assertion was actually understated. He did not include the carbon charges that will be passed through provincial and municipal governments.

The seriously outrageous claims are coming from Minister Guilbeault.


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Reference Material

Power Plays

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