In an unprecedented policy move, Premier Christy Clark says she is exploring the idea of increasing British Columbia’s carbon tax.
She made the announcement earlier this week at the GLOBE Conference held at the Vancouver Convention Centre, but also hinted that any changes would be tax neutral by cutting taxes in other areas.
“With the weakness in the global economy today, we also have to acknowledge that families are feeling profoundly burdened,” said Clark. “There cannot be any increase in the carbon tax without any tax relief, and we have to protect families and those jobs.”
“Protecting our planet does not have to come at an economic cost. We tax what we don’t want, which is pollution, and then we try to remove taxes from things we do want. We believe carbon pricing is taxing people differently, not taxing people more.”
Currently, the B.C. carbon tax is pegged at $30 per tonne – the ceiling after the policy reached the end of its scheduled increases in 2012 to allow for an assessment of the impact of the tax. The tax was introduced by Premier Gordon Campbell in 2008 and covers 80 per cent of the province’s economy.
But Clark’s plan might also have to do with establishing B.C.’s competitive advantage over other provincial economies, or at least levelling the playing field, once Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s national carbon tax moves forward.
At the First Ministers’ Conference on Thursday, the Prime Minister and all provincial and territorial leaders left the meeting room with an agreement in principle that any climate change action plan will include carbon pricing.
The federal government intends to introduce a national carbon tax that begins at $15 per tonne, eventually rising to $40 per tonne over several years. The plan is unlikely to affect B.C., given that it already has its own carbon tax with a rate that is twice of what Trudeau is proposing.
Any provincial jurisdiction that creates its own carbon tax or cap and trade program will be able to keep all of the revenue generated. The tax codes developed by the provincial governments will be required to abide with a minimum carbon price set by the federal government.