Déjà Vu All Over Again?

It would probably be a safe bet that going forward into the next election the Liberals’ will disavow any connection with the doomed Greenshift® (aka the “tax on everything” according to the Harperettes) which proved to be such a disastrous liability at the ballot box last fall. But what instead will they be advocating to limit carbon emissions? Perhaps a complex trading scheme such as the one favoured by the current U.S. administration… What could possibly go wrong with that?

Common Sense About Carbon

Solazyme CEO Jonathan Wolfson argues that a cap-and-trade system will be ineffective in leading development away from high-carbon technologies. “If I was the one writing the rules, I would just tax carbon,” he says.

Solazyme describes itself as “a synthetic biology company that unleashes the power of marine microbes to create clean and scalable solutions for the renewable energy, industrial chemical, and specialty ingredient markets.”

One of these days, I will (as promised back when the Liberals were still promoting their failed “GreenShift” approach to the problem) explain in more detail why cap-and-trade is a specious corporate scam. But in the meantime, good on Mr. Wolfson for being so blunt in rejecting that approach to tackling the problem of carbon emissions and for being so forthright about the quid pro quo that should (but sadly doesn’t in most cases) exist when government backs research and development efforts that lead to profitable enterprises.

Oh, I almost forgot. The complete ForaTV piece is available here.

Bloody Staples

It would be natural to think that the Liberals’ proposed “Green Shift” plan that purports to cut taxes on income, investment and innovation, and shift those taxes to pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, waste and so on, would have a significant negative impact on Alberta, given the fundamental role played by fossil fuels its economy. And it will — there’s absolutely no doubt about that. The question is what the nature and extent of that impact will be.

David Staples, a “serious” journalist with the Edmonton Journal (who also writes extensively on popular culture), has a short piece (and by short we mean 250 words short) on the CanWest wires today with the alarming headline “Green Shift would bleed Alberta, experts say.” Um, okay. So, we look through the piece to see who the “experts” are making this claim and what do we find? Well, nothing at all really.

Staples starts off by citing some dubious and highly inflammatory remarks made by Liberal MP Ken Boschcoff several months ago that Green Shift is a way to transfer money out of Alberta into the rest of Canada and then moves on to University of Calgary professor David Keith, who shoots down the idea of a wealth transfer out of Alberta and says that some negotiations with the province would be needed. And that’s it. Period. No “experts” saying what’s claimed in the headline at all. Nothing, Nadda, Zip, Zero, Zilch! To put it quite bluntly, this little article is complete, unmitigated, phoned-in BULLSHIT.

Oh, and here’s a kicker, Environment Minister John Baird said earlier in the week that the “Green Shift” might actually be welcomed by the oilsands industry. Of course, he was attempting to make the case that it would create a “pay-and-pollute” system (as opposed to the Conservative “plan”), but still… this is the Conservatives saying that the doom and gloom for Alberta economic scenario they’ve been painting may not actually be true.

Update: Apparently, the print version that appeared in the Edmonton Journal is more extensive than what was posted over the wires by CanWest. Thanks to Gayle in the comments for pointing out the more complete article which is available here. Notwithstanding the headline, it presents a considerably more balanced assessment of how the Liberals’ “Green Shift” carbon tax might impact the Alberta economy.

Update2: Garth has a very good Q&A summary regarding the “Green Shift” on his blog today. What a pity the Liberals didn’t put something like this together ahead of the game to preemptively address these sorts of questions. Oh well. Live and learn, I guess.

Explaining the “Green Shift”

Ontario employment lawyer Paul McKeever attempts to demystify the Liberal proposed “Green Shift” carbon tax proposal.

McKeever concludes that “Either it’s not green, or it does not involve a shift. In other words: either it will not reduce CO2 emissions, or it will be a tax grab.” He suggests the latter, calling it not only a “bad plan” but a “very dangerous one.”

It would be interesting to hear the responses of those Libs who enthusiastically support this plan.

A Question of Credibility

Who are you going to believe when it comes to the possible impacts of the Liberals’ proposed Green Shift on farmers?

Jason Kenney, a junior minister responsible for “Multiculturalism and Canadian Identity” (*snort*), with no real-world business experience or academic qualifications whatsoever, who’s only job outside of elected office was the head of two right-wing political advocacy organizations and who is now “acting as the human incarnation of Oily the Splot” to quote Kady O’Malley.

Or… Canadian Federation of Agriculture President Bob Friesen, the new Liberal candidate for Charleswood-St. James-Assiniboia, a man who’s served in numerous executive and advisory capacities within the agricultural industry over the last twenty years and who also, until just recently, ran a turkey and hog farm outside of Winnipeg.

Seems like a no-brainer to me.

The Great “Green Tax Con”

It’s to be entirely expected that many “conservative” bloggers would seize on the article in today’s Daily Express that indignantly states “FAMILIES are being ripped off by an average of £783 a year through Gordon Brown’s bogus ‘green’ taxes, it emerged yesterday” and draw a suggestive parallel to the “Green Shift” carbon tax being proposed by the Liberal Party. There are, however, a couple of things that should perhaps be taken into consideration before doing that.

First of all, the Express is allied to the Conservative party in the U.K. and therefore tends to have a political bias in that direction — so take that for whatever it’s worth. Second, the article is remarkably short on detail to the point of being almost impossibly vague. For example, it’s nowhere stated exactly how the £19.6 billion in so-called green taxes is “too much” or how the money is presumably being misallocated — one gathers that it’s going straight into general revenues rather than being directed at any specific programs to combat pollution. Again, details are few and far between and there’s no presentation of the government’s side of the story. And finally, the Labour government in the U.K. has a myriad of these green tax schemes, but it’s not clear from the article that the ones in question are in any way comparable to the Liberals’ carbon tax, other than in name only of course.

Still, it’s something that’s definitely worth digging deeper into as it could prove to be a demonstration of how well-intentioned environmental initiatives can go horribly awry, whether through deliberate fiscal legerdemain or bungled implementation.

Red Star “In the Dark” About Green Shift

Promoting the Green Shift plan has been a “tough sell” according to Rob Ferguson writing in this morning’s Toronto Star about a Dion campaign swing through the riding of Don Valley West. Although he’s been selling the plan for weeks, most voters “were in the dark about it,” Ferguson reports.

”I haven’t really seen much about that,” men’s clothier Paul Carreira said after a quick chat with Dion, mainstreeting for the Sept. 22 by-election in Don Valley West.

Popping into stores and coffee shops to shake hands, Dion said his mission was to “just say hello” and not pitch the pollution-fighting plan to boost taxes on carbon-based fuels like gasoline while lowering income taxes.

Seems it’s not just voters who are in the dark, so is Ferguson. In fact, the tax will not apply to gasoline, since the existing excise tax on gasoline at the pump is already the equivalent of $42 per tonne of carbon.

Anti-Green Shift Astroturfing

Let’s see what “average Guelphite” Barry Osmond is
up to these days, shall we?

That name might ring a bell with some of you from the indignant letter he wrote to the Guelph Mercury on August 2nd regarding all of the negative sniping by Liberal supporters at Gloria “MIA” Kovach, including “implying she’s just a Stephen Harper sock puppet.” Apparently, Mr. Osmond doesn’t understand the meaning of the word “imply” but whatever.

The next day, Progressive Blogger “Skinny Dipper” speculated that Mr. Osmond might actually be the “Blogging Tory” that posts anonymously as “Christian Conservative” because of the distinct similarity of wording used in the letter to the editor and a blog post by the redeemed one also whinging about the negative attacks on Kovach. That would appear not to be the case, but one never knows for sure about these things.

Be that as it may, Skinny also wondered whether Mr. Osmond was, rather than just an average citizen, perhaps a Conservative partisan based on the strength of his name appearing as the contact on an invitation to 2007 Conservative Party fundraising dinner ostensibly celebrating the birthday of Sir John A. Macdonald featuring Preston Manning as the guest speaker. Perhaps so.

Now, it seems that Mr. Osmond has launched a website called “Stop the Carbon Tax” that another “Blogging Tory,” the pseudo-conservative pundit and Sun Media hack Gerry Nicholls promoted on his blog yesterday this way: “Grassroots opposition to the Liberal Carbon Tax is growing as evidenced by this cool new site” which linked to Osmond’s site. Yeah, right… “evidence” of “grassroots opposition” — from Conservative party operatives masquerading as average citizens. Cool? Try pathetic.

Update: Jeff Davidson has brought the picture above to our attention. “Average citizen” Barry Osmond is part of “Team Kovach” — he’s the one without boobs.

You’re Welcome

Heh. That Garth — what a scoundrel.

If he’d asked me, I would have given him a better version. Silly man.

Update: Instead, he’s now changed the picture to something completely different. Can you say “douche”? I know you can…

Taxing Carbon: Some Initial Thoughts

Campaigns of Hope & Fear

Aside from posting on some of the more frivolous aspects of the Liberals’ proposed “Green Shift” (not to be confused with eco-friendly urinal cakes, napkins and disposable coffee cups bearing the same trademarked name), I haven’t really delved into this pivotal issue to date, but now that I’ve finally gotten around to reading through the plan in its entirety, I’d like to explore it in some more detail over the coming weeks.

In following the “debate” since the plan’s release, I have to say that I’ve found the largely uninformed, knee-jerk reactions of “Conservative” politicians and supporters to be both needlessly alarmist and deeply pessimistic. And at the risk of vastly oversimplifying the matter, to a certain extent it doesn’t seem entirely unfair to regard the contrasting views of Stéphane Dion and Stephen Harper about the issue as those of “hope” and “fear” respectively.

Conservatives would have us believe that a carbon tax is nothing more than a nefarious “trick” that will, as Stephen Harper put it so eloquently back in June, “screw everybody” (especially those in “the West”), but to me, the reasons why this is automatically assumed to be the case seem founded more on an irrational paranoia and a deep-seated distrust of government rather than being based on any empirical evidence or sound economic principles. Quite to the contrary, most economists agree (in itself a somewhat unusual occurrence) that taxing carbon is a sensible idea and some, such as Don Drummond, the chief economist of the TD Bank Financial Group, have even described the Liberals’ carbon tax plan as “a good start” that will, at least in his estimation, leave the general Canadian taxpayer “better off.”

Of course, it would be entirely foolish to blindly place bets on the side of “hope” without failing to mention that the Liberals haven’t always been noted for their sound management of complex government programs in the past. One only has to look back to monumental boondoggles like the scandalous waste associated with the Human Resources Development grants program or the long gun registry to see how badly things can go wrong in this regard. While those are certainly more than fair enough points to raise by way of objection to the Liberals’ “Green Shift” proposal, I want to leave that aspect aside — at least for the time being — and focus instead quite strictly on the principle of the matter.

So, if you have any ideas on how you’d like to see this discussion run, I’d be more than open to suggestions. By way of full disclosure, I may be participating in a conference call with Dion about this issue in the coming weeks, so what transpires here will likely help to inform my questions about the program and its implementation in the rather unlikely event of a future Liberal government.