An environmental group praised the B.C. government for putting a price on carbon emissions but the opposition said the carbon tax introduced in Tuesday's budget is not revenue neutral to low-income earners.
Finance Minister Carole Taylor announced in Victoria that as part of the new tax plan, carbon-based fuels — including gasoline, diesel, natural gas and home heating fuel — will be taxed at $10/tonne of greenhouse gases generated, starting July 1.
That will work out to a new 2.4 cents a litre tax on gasoline at the pump and 2.8 cents a litre for home heating fuel.
"This carbon tax will be entirely revenue neutral, meaning every dollar raised will be returned to the people of B.C. in the form of lower taxes," Taylor said.
"It will give consumers, business, industry and the economy time to adapt to this new landscape," she said.
Ian Bruce, a climate-change specialist with the David Suzuki Foundation, said the budget contains strong measures to address global warming.
"A carbon tax is one of the most powerful incentives we have to encourage companies and households to actually pollute less," Bruce said. "A carbon tax makes polluting more expensive and being green more affordable, and allows all of us to be part of the solution."
NDP finance critic Bruce Ralston said the new tax will hurt average families already struggling to get by as big polluters get a break.
"The tax doesn't capture the full spectrum of emissions. [It] will hit consumers and average families the hardest as large industrial polluters get a pass and a handout," Ralston said.
"That's unfair and even the government admits it will accomplish little in the way of reducing actual emissions," he said.
"This budget puts all of the burden on individuals instead of big polluters. Clearly, the industrial lobbyists won in the backrooms."
The Canadian Taxpayers Federation said it's disappointed because the new tax is in direct contradiction to the recommendations from the Liberals' pre-budget consultation report.
"The government was elected on a tax- and regulation-reduction mandate," said Maureen Bader, the association's B.C. director.
"But this so-called revenue-neutral carbon tax will be anything but neutral for individuals, businesses and industries. It will create hardship for families, as soccer moms are unlikely to start walking," she said.
However, most drivers at a Vancouver downtown gas station told CBC News they're not opposed to the higher price for gasoline when they can contribute to saving the Earth.
"As much as I hate to pay more money for gas, but if it's going to help with the long-term situation of this planet, then I will do it," a driver who declined to be named said.
Another driver said: "I actually don't mind as much because I drive a hybrid [car] … it looks like it's going to save me the few cents she's raising. I'll probably be paying the same."