I'm a millennial, I believe in climate change and I still hate the carbon tax

I probably don’t fit your mental picture of someone who is against the carbon tax.

Tax removes choice, argues former Sask Party communications director

The carbon tax will affect Canadians at the fuel pump, on their bills and at the grocery store, says Dale Richardson. (Graham Hughes/Canadian Press)

Canada's federal carbon tax took effect on Jan. 1. The controversial measure has drawn ire from politicians and workers in Saskatchewan.

CBC Saskatchewan asked two people for their perspectives on the tax. Read the other, where a Saskatchewan writer argues Premier Scott Moe is being hypocritical by opposing the carbon tax after hiking and expanding the PST, here.

I probably don't fit your mental picture of someone who is against the carbon tax.

First, I'm a millennial. Take that however you want. You likely already have an opinion of who and what a millennial is.

Second, I grew up in Saskatoon and now live in downtown Regina. I love big cities like New York, Vancouver, Toronto, and Melbourne, Australia. I like the hustle and bustle, concrete jungle way of life.

Third, I own a bicycle and have been known to ride it to work in the summer. My partner and I also spend a lot of Regina's warm days on our bicycles, touring around doing millennial things.

Fourth, I believe that climate change is a real thing, it's manmade, it's happening right now and we see the effects of it every day in Saskatchewan. Just look at the extreme temperatures, floods, forest fires, and generally weird weather that's happened in the past few years. Climate change is a thing, and there's no doubt about it.

I also love Starbucks.

Despite all these things — and the assumptions about me they might inspire — I hate the carbon tax.

Yes, that carbon tax. The one the Trudeau government will soon apply to everyone's grocery bill, SaskPower bill, gasoline price and much more.

Recognize personal choice

The federal government stubbornly believes the carbon tax is the only way to reduce carbon emissions and refuses to accept that Saskatchewan's own climate change strategy could be a better alternative for this province. That's a serious mistake.

To be honest, there's so much I hate about the federal government's carbon tax that I don't have room for it all. 

Let's start here:

One of the reasons I live downtown in Regina is that my partner and I have chosen, on our own, to live there. While many of our friends and colleagues have purchased homes in the suburbs, we've decided to live downtown. It's close to our respective workplaces and there's something about proximity to the park and downtown restaurants and coffee shops that we've always liked.

I also chose to buy that bicycle I rode to work. No one told me to do it. There was certainly no government incentive in it for me. 

You can bike to work and still oppose the carbon tax, Richardson says. (Eric Anderson/CBC)

This is one of the things that really bothers me about the carbon tax. It totally refuses to consider what choices individuals and families are making to lower their carbon footprint and lessen the impact of climate change. 

A family may live on the outskirts of Regina and drive an SUV, but maybe they live in that neighbourhood because it's more affordable, their kids can walk to their school and that new SUV is the most fuel-efficient one on the market. The parents in that family may have also chosen to be an entrepreneurs and work from home instead of driving to downtown Regina or the other side of the city for work every day. 

Families like that shouldn't be punished for living their life in the way that works best for them, especially if it's not a particularly lavish, carbon-intensive lifestyle.

That same family should also be able to heat their home in the winter time and afford to do so. This may be a surprise to some, but it's pretty damn cold in Saskatchewan in the winter. 

I've never farmed a day in my life, but I've taken the time to attempt to understand how the agriculture industry works and what farm and ranch operations are doing to reduce their carbon footprint.- Dale Richardson

Adding a carbon tax to a family's energy bill isn't going to change their behaviour. It's only going to make them mad. I don't drive my car much these days, but if I did I'd probably feel the same thing. A carbon tax wouldn't make me drive my car less or change my behaviour, it would just make me angry.

A made-in-Ottawa carbon tax lacks even the slightest understanding of the realities of life and business here in Saskatchewan. Regina and Saskatoon may have some similarities to Montreal, Toronto, Ottawa, or Vancouver, but Saskatchewan overall is not those places. Here, most people have to drive long distances in our own vehicles to get to places. As nice as it would be, effective public transit just isn't available here.

Look at what farmers are already doing

Saskatchewan's most important industries - agriculture, mining, and oil and gas - are carbon-intensive. The agriculture industry employs thousands in Saskatchewan and it feeds the world. The federal government's carbon tax targets this industry and could cripple it. 

I've never farmed a day in my life, but I've taken the time to attempt to understand how the agriculture industry works and what farm and ranch operations are doing to reduce their carbon footprint. The same obviously cannot be said for the central Canada-focused federal government. 

Climate change is quite clearly happening, and we see its effects every day in our province, from drastic temperature changes to more intense forest fires and devastating floods almost every summer. It is a problem and there must be more awareness and actions taken to mitigate it. Those that truly are the biggest emitters do need to be held accountable or to more stringent standards.

Attacking everyday families by imposing a costly carbon tax that has no chance of changing behaviour or reducing emissions is not the way to do this, and neither is crippling Saskatchewan's most important economic industries.

I ride a bicycle, live downtown and like Starbucks, but at least I understand this province and how we operate and live here.

Happy new year. Welcome to the (terrible) carbon tax.

This column is part of CBC's Opinion section. For more information about this section, please read this editor's blog and our FAQ

About the Author

Dale Richardson is a Regina-based small business owner and former Director of Communications for the Saskatchewan Party.


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.