B.C. premier says NDP plan to 'axe the tax' is playing politics

B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell called the NDP campaign to axe the tax, which leader Carol James announced earlier Tuesday, disingenuous.

B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell called the NDP campaign to "axe the tax," which leader Carole James announced earlier Tuesday, "disingenuous."

Campbell said James’s remarks show her party does not have a plan to deal with climate change, "There is a whole lot of confusion from the NDP. Friday they're for a carbon tax. Now they're saying there shouldn't be a carbon tax," said Campbell on Tuesday afternoon.

B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell speaks to reporters at a caucus retreat Tuesday. ((CBC))

Starting July 1, the province will introduce a 2.4-cents-a-litre tax on gasoline, based on a $10-per-tonne tax on greenhouse gas emissions. The gas tax will continue to rise to 7.25 cents by 2012. Similar taxes on diesel, propane, natural gas and furnace oil will also come into effect on July 1.

Campbell maintained the average B.C. family will spend less on carbon tax than it will save in income tax cuts.

Average family may spend less

"We will have the lowest personal income tax for everyone earning under $111,000 a year," he said, adding the province will also have the lowest business taxes of any G8 country.

He said the average family of four will pay $25 to drive 20,000 kilometres but that the same family will save $45 in income tax, putting them $20 ahead.

"Next year it will be even more," Campbell said from a caucus retreat.

He noted every adult and child in the province will receive a one-time $100 "climate action dividend" from the government this summer.

With the price of gasoline approaching $1.50 per litre, James is calling on the Liberal government to halt the July 1 tax, consult with the public and bring the legislature back in the fall to debate climate change.

Campbell attacked James on her plan, saying, "I think they are being disingenuous and I think [the NDP] are showing once again that they have no agenda for the province, they have no agenda to make us more competitive, no agenda to make us more productive, and certainly no agenda to deal with … the situation that we face with climate change."

Shift the tax to producers

The gas tax only hurts consumers who are already suffering, said James, whose party has tapped into considerable opposition to the legislation, particularly across rural B.C.

B.C. NDP Leader Carole James says the Liberals need to rethink the carbon tax. ((CBC))

"We have talked about a real action plan that actually addresses the big polluters first where you can really make a difference when it comes to emissions," said James, who was in Kelowna for the a two-day caucus retreat.

Instead of taxing consumers, the government should target major industrial producers such as the gas, oil, cement and aluminum industries, she said.

'Cap-and-trade system'

"Let's put a cap-and-trade system in place to make sure we capture those issues and that we address greenhouse gases and that consumers aren't the first to pay," said James.

In April, the B.C. government introduced new cap-and-trade legislation that will place a cap on industrial emissions of carbon dioxide, one of the main greenhouse gases contributing to climate change.

However, the government has not yet said what the pollution cap will be, how much it will cost to buy pollution credits or what penalties will be imposed on violators.

A coalition of B.C environmental groups have voiced support for the carbon tax and the cap-and-trade plan. By 2020, the B.C. government has pledged to cut greenhouse gas emissions by one third, based on 2007 levels.

The Liberal government promised to make the carbon tax revenue neutral by issuing a cheque for $100 to every B.C. resident this month, and with cuts in the provincial income, small business and corporate tax rates for 2008.

With files from the Canadian Press