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Saturday, October 1, 2016

Matthew Lau: So-called ‘conservative’ carbon taxers are doing it wrong

Recently, Conservative interim leader Rona Ambrose explained her party’s position on climate policy. She noted that, while in office, the Conservatives had set environmental targets and “put in place a plan to reach that through regulation, as opposed to taxation.” This despite the reality that, as conservatives should easily recognize, the “regulation of industry,” which she seems to prefer, is more economically damaging than the “taxation” she would seem to despise. If carbon emissions really are a significant problem (which remains a matter of debate), the case for taxation over regulation is clear. With taxation, emission-abatement strategies are determined by markets. With regulations, they’re determined by governments. But at least those, like Ambrose, who support regulations can say they are being consistent in using them to try reaching certain emission targets. Meanwhile, those who would use carbon taxes to hit targets like those in the Paris climate treaty are doing it all wrong.

To be sure, when they were in government, the Conservatives had no trouble coming up awful ideas to help the environment — taking away our incandescent light bulbs, for example. Andrew Coyne twice hammered the Tories last week in the National Post over their preference for a regulatory approach. As Coyne noted, it would be different if the Conservatives rejected both carbon taxes and regulations by maintaining that man-made climate change is not a problem. But then, why the regulations? Coyne accurately labelled the Conservative approach as “economic madness” and not conservative at all.

Still, as is usually the case, the Liberals and New Democrats have managed to come up with even dumber ways to address the climate issue. Their approach is a toxic mix of over-burdensome regulations, higher taxes, and corporate welfare. That this concoction has already sickened Ontario’s economy has not deterred Alberta and Ottawa from mixing up their own version of this poisonous climate policy...

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