On carbon tax debate, Jason Kenney should heed his own advice

For lack of a better term, let’s call it Carbon Tax Derangement Syndrome (or CTDS).

'If we can’t trust him to understand the carbon tax, what else is he getting wrong?'

Graham Thomson wonders if Jason Kenney understands the carbon tax or is being disingenuous in his criticism of it. (Colin Hall/CBC)

For lack of a better term, let's call it Carbon Tax Derangement Syndrome, or CTDS.

Its symptoms include a fierce opposition to the carbon tax based not on facts or logic but on partisan anger bordering on the ridiculous.

CTDS doesn't just flirt with derangement, it takes derangement out for dinner, drinks and then back home for a snuggle.

We saw a classic example last Sunday when Michaela Glasgo, the United Conservative Party candidate for Brooks-Medicine Hat, issued a tweet claiming the provincial carbon tax will cost her church $50,000 "this year ALONE."

"Unbelievable," she said. Yes, it was unbelievable because it wasn't true.

UCP leader Jason Kenney joined in with his own tweet: "We hear stories like this all the time."

If Kenney had wanted to be accurate he should have tweeted, "We spread stories like this all the time." Because that is what the UCP, especially Kenney, have been doing for months.

Anyone not suffering from CTDS, upon reading Glasgo's tweet, would have thought, "How can this be true?" Or perhaps, "Does this church not have a roof?"

Glasgo and Kenney were mocked mercilessly, which led Glasgo to issue a Facebook post defending the tweet: "During yesterday's service, an appeal was made for contributions to help cover the church's expected $50,000 carbon tax bill for 2019. To be clear, the church is non-partisan, and this was in no way a political attack or statement by the church."

No, it was a political attack and statement by Glasgo.

She should have realized something was amiss with her information. She wasn't just being mocked by the usual suspects; she was being questioned by experts such as economist Trevor Tombe, who understand how the carbon levy works.

On Monday, Glasgo had to climb down from her high horse. Turns out the church's carbon tax bill is $5,400, not $50,000. Glasgo said she "did not intend to mislead." But CTDS runs deep with this one: "I fully stand by my criticism of the NDP's carbon tax."

But it runs nowhere deeper than with Kenney.

In the past he has embraced and amplified stories critical of the carbon tax. When a story broke in 2017 that a crematorium had charged families an extra $100, Kenney happily sent out a tweet: "Disgusting: the NDP's carbon tax has massively increased the cost of cremation for grieving families. No compassion."

When the crematorium admitted making an accounting mistake (the real cost was $10), Kenney was silent.

More recently he said the carbon tax would cost the Elk Island public school district an extra $800,000 each year to run its buses. The actual cost is closer to $80,000.

(Does nobody know where to put a decimal point?)

Debate should be based on facts

The pros and cons of a carbon tax — officially called a carbon "levy" — are absolutely worthy of debate. But the debate should be based on facts, not Carbon Tax Derangement Syndrome.

What's particularly off-putting here is how Kenney seems to have the shakiest understanding of how the tax works. And yet he is its loudest critic.

He's hoping to turn the upcoming provincial election into something of a referendum on the tax.

His stance should not be simply written off as partisan politics.- Graham Thomson

But based on his tweets and statements he is either ignorant of how the tax works or he's being disingenuous in his criticism. I am not saying he is lying because to lie is to deliberately mislead. And Kenney might simply be guilty of good old fashioned ignorance.

His stance should not be simply written off as partisan politics.

If the public polls are correct and hold firm, Kenney is on track to become Alberta's premier this spring.

If we can't trust him to understand the carbon tax, what else is he getting wrong?

Or if he's this willing to bend the truth on the carbon tax, what else is he twisting?

Kenney has pleaded with politicians of all stripes to show more civility and decorum in debate.

When it comes to offering a real fact-based debate on the carbon tax, one free of CTDS, he should start heeding his own advice.

More from Graham Thomson:

About the Author

You can find columnist Graham Thomson's thoughts and analysis on provincial politics every Friday at cbc.ca/edmonton, on CBC Edmonton Television News and during Radio Active on CBC Radio One (93.9FM/740AM).


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