Nfld. & Labrador·Point of View

I'm a party pooper, and I say N.L. is a climate change villain

We're cheating our way out of paying a fair share in carbon taxes, and the Liberals' strategy isn't enough, writes columnist Andie Bulman.

We're cheating our way out of paying a fair share in carbon taxes, writes Andie Bulman

Andie Bulman actually does enjoy socializing with friends. Not so much, though, when chatter turns to the environment. (Andie Bulman)

I have been going to parties and picking fights with people about the carbon tax. 

I intend to go to these gatherings to have fun — maybe enjoy a glass of rosé — but, inevitably, someone will start complaining about the carbon tax. Maybe they'll deny the existence of climate change.

What happens? I end my evening shouting frightening statistics from the top of a stairwell.  

For example, a new scientific report from Environment and Climate Change Canada announced in April that our country is warming up twice as fast as the rest of the world and that the warming is "effectively irreversible." 

Whether or not we want to admit it, climate change is an emergency. 

Averting crisis?

The proposed solution from the Liberals is the federal carbon tax. 

So, we're back to arguments at parties because this federal carbon tax is complicated and almost impossible to fully comprehend without a degree in political science. 

Understanding how we got into this mess is easier.

The former federal Conservative government hurried the climate change process. Harper called the Kyoto accord a "socialist scheme" designed to suck money out of rich countries. His climate strategy was to blindly deny while investing in his beloved oil sands. Under Harper's leadership, we embarrassed ourselves and saw our carbon emissions increase. 

Trudeau campaigned as a climate change champion and announced during the Paris Agreement that "Canada is back."

Trudeau's complicated carbon tax is doomed to fail.

 

This was a huge moment for Canada on the world stage, but Trudeau has proven himself to be a politician in the mold of William Lyon Mackenzie King; Canadian poet F.R. Scott  wrote that King "never let his on the one hand/Know what his on the other hand was doing."

The day after he declared climate change an emergency, Trudeau tied his legacy to a pipeline. Like King, he skillfully highlights what is right while doing something wrong. I won't mince words: Trudeau's complicated "carbon tax" is doomed to fail. 

Harper brought us into this mess, but Trudeau will not be the one to get us out.

A better way

The federal carbon tax is being applied to provinces that did not adopt their own carbon taxes. Each province had the chance to create their own system.

Therein lies the problem with Trudeau's "plan." Carbon tax should be federally mandated because the provinces (somewhat understandably) hope to cheat and protect their economies and investments.

And no one has cheated the way Newfoundland and Labrador has cheated. 

 

Our approach to carbon pricing can be found here, but be warned! The language is awash with Orwellian doublespeak. Vague and unclear, the province's carbon plan promises to work with the federal government "to create jobs in a green economy," but doesn't outline any specifics.

N.L. got a free pass from the Trudeau government. On paper, we snagged this deal from Ottawa because of the province's investment in hydroelectricity. 

Interestingly, Manitoba, a province already powered by hydroelectricity, did not get the same considerations. Ottawa's motivations for approving Newfoundland's lacklustre carbon tax plan is unclear, but this is an election year and we'd be naïve to ignore that fact.

Meanwhile, the provincial government is investing heavily in the oil and gas industry and has created exemptions for large carbon producers and consumers alike. It's also doubling its offshore oil production by 2030. Similarly, residents will not be taxed on home heating fuel. 

Aviation fuel, the ferry system, and municipalities are also exempt.

Sleight of hand

Riddled with exceptions, this narrow carbon plan will suggest that the province is cutting emissions even as they steadily increase. Politically, Dwight Ball and his liberals made a savvy move with their emissions illusion. 

Premier Dwight Ball fought Ottawa earlier this year on how to manage offshore oil and gas resources, which thanks to the renewed Atlantic Accord, aren't going away any time soon. (Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press)

However, climate change is not just a political issue — it is also a moral one. This province has an ethical obligation to make a sincere effort to curb our emissions.

By continuing to invest in the oil and gas sectors, however, history will view Newfoundland and Labrador as a villain in the climate change story — and that's if there is a history. 

Whether you're for or against the carbon tax, Newfoundlanders and Labradorians need to agree that the party is over.

Or at least we can agree that I'm not fun at parties. 

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador 

About the Author

Andie Bulman

Contributor

Andie Bulman is a chef, writer and comedian in St. John's.

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