British Columbia

Carbon tax opposition heats up in rural B.C.

Residents of rural British Columbia continue to oppose the province's controversial carbon tax, which comes into effect July 1

Residents in rural British Columbia continue to oppose the province's controversial carbon tax, which comes into effect July 1.

Under the new tax, carbon-based fuels including gasoline, diesel, natural gas, propane, coal and home heating fuel will be taxed at $10 per tonne of greenhouse gases generated.

That means a 2.4 cents per litre tax on gasoline and 2.8 cents per litre for home heating fuel.

But some argue that tax is unfair to those living in rural B.C.

"You can't say we're putting carbon into the air like they are in Vancouver. I mean, when you're sitting there for 20 minutes idling your car, that's putting way more into the air than me driving into town," said Gilbert Murphy, who owns a ranch near Williams Lake, B.C. 

Murphy, 74, admitted he has never waved a placard or marched in a protest, but last weekend he hitched up his horses and led a convoy of about a dozen wagons into Williams Lake in protest.

That frustration is echoed by the president of the Peace River Regional Cattleman's Association, who said the tax could be devastating for some Northern farmers.

"For people in agriculture that have seen a horrific increase to the price of fuels, adding two cents this year, and I think it's cumulative total over three years is seven cents, I think it may in fact be the straw that broke the camel's back," said Doug Summer.

Ranching is a struggling sector in B.C., he said, and there should be some sort of tax exemption for industries such as agriculture.

The chair of the Prince George School District is calling for an exemption, too. Lyn Hall said the school district only has so much money to work with.

"The issue we have is it [the carbon tax] will have a direct impact on our operation budget of around $80,000 in the first year," he said.

The provincial NDP organized a rally Thursday in Prince George as part of its "Axe the Gas Tax" campaign.

"The big polluters aren't going to be part of that tax and the oil and gas industry gets another $300 million subsidy.  Where's the integrity with that?" said Bob Simpson, NDP MLA for Cariboo North.

However, the provincial government has continued to defend the tax, saying it is just one step toward B.C.'s low-carbon future.

"No one likes a tax, we understand that. But this is about changing people's behaviour," said Pat Bell, the Liberal MLA for Prince George North.