BC NDP global warming plan: bad for the environment, bad for the economy [UPDATED]

Originally posted on April 15, 2009 at 7:35 pm

Mark Jaccard has recently released an analysis of the BC NDP’s main policy to deal with global warming concluding that:

if BC were to try to reach its aggressive GHG emissions reduction target without emissions pricing for non-industrial emitters, relying instead on industry and government funds to subsidize relatively ineffective energy efficiency and fuel switching by non-industrial emitters, the outcome is likely to be a dramatic reduction in BC industrial production. This would have significant negative repercussions for employment levels, especially in some key BC communities that are dependent on one or two specific large industrial GHG emitters. The loss of jobs will be substantial.

In other words, the NDP is only pricing carbon for industrial emitters, and using those revenues to provide subsidies for individuals and households who make energy efficiency or fuel switching investments to reduce their GHG emissions. Climate policy has tried to achieve GHG emissions reductions in the manner (called non-compulsory approaches by Jaccard) for decades, and GHG emissions have continued to rise. Non-compulsory approaches simply aren’t very effective.

So, Jaccard concludes, that in order for the BC NDP’s climate policy to achieve its stated goal it must impose a much larger cost for emissions by industry.  This would likely lead to a a dramatic reduction in BC industrial production and significant job losses.

In fact their plan is so bad that several high profile environmental have publically renounce support for BC NDP.

The David Suzuki Foundation, the Pembina Institute and ForestEthics held a joint news conference… to call on the party to reverse its position on the tax.

Thousands of jobs in the green economy will be lost, and the province will lose its position as an environmental leader if the tax is dropped, the groups said

“The NDP has chosen what they think will be a publicly acceptable but climate-irresponsible approach. And that is, they want to step backward the pricing of carbon and backwards on the policies that are in place in the hopes that that may get them elected,” Merran Smith, a climate director with ForestEthics, said Monday.

This is particularly troublesome for the BC NDP as Richard Littlemore explain:

For people not from Canada’s coast, the NDP is a traditional coalition of social policy progressives, labor activists and environmentalists. This particular iteration of the NDP, however, appears intent upon carving off its environmental arm in favour of pandering to the libertarian types who just love to scream about government taxation.

I expect many BC NDP supporters will feel alienated by this move. In fact to me this whole move seems as opposition for the sake opposition. They are sacrificing their stated principles in order to differentiate themselves form the BC Liberals.

Of course the environmental issue is far from black and white and as Adam Rawlings points out, the BC NDP’s position on other climate related issues is arguably stronger than the BC Liberal’s, specifically their commitment to transit and efficiency, though Jaccard’s analysis disagrees with that last one. And while I am not against such initiatives per se, I am more comfortable with enabling the market to solve these problems.

And lets not forget that the BC Liberals have more than a few black marks on their environmental record as well.

Whether it was inadvertent or by design, Finance Minister Colin Hansen yanked down his government’s green facade last week by stating that offshore oil and gas drilling on the B.C. coast would fit in nicely with the province’s climate action goals.


The Campbell government’s energy policy, [threatens to] lay waste to 600 to 700 of our rivers and streams in this wonderful province of ours… BC Hydro is no longer allowed to bring in new sources of energy. That must be done by the private sector, which is being allowed to stake rivers like old-time prospectors staked claims for gold. These private firms then will divert “their” rivers, often through tunnels up to 20 kilometres in length, thus reducing the flow in portions of the river bed by up to 95 per cent.


The provincial government is looking to spend up to $5 million on projects to plant trees or make existing ones grow faster through fertilizer and other means… However, Nicholas Heap of the Vancouver-based David Suzuki Foundation is critical of carbon credit schemes based on tree planting.

It can take decades for the trees to grow enough to make a difference, he said, and the trees will eventually rot and release the greenhouse gas back into the atmosphere.

“Environmentalists like ourselves have been talking about the wonderful myriad benefits of trees and planting forests,” Heap said.

“But when you’re planting trees primarily or only as a carbon offset, we’re not playing to the greatest strength of trees. There are other means of producing offsets that actually out-compete planting forests.”

Which is particularly disturbing given that our trees are dying twice as quickly as they did three decades ago and scientists think global warming is to blame.

Still when it comes to global warming, the BC NDP’s plan is bad for both the economy and the environment. It’s the best worst of both worlds.

UPDATE: The New York Time’s Green Inc. blog has a good write up on this as well.

According to the three groups [the Pembina Institute, the David Suzuki Foundation and ForestEthics], the carbon tax now covers 76 percent of the province’s greenhouse gas emissions while the New Democrats’ plan would lower that to 32 percent.

UPDATE 2: Andrew Weaver, one of Canada’s top climate scientists, joins the fray!

NDP’s ‘environmental plan’ just a gimmick
Party’s ‘axe the tax’ campaign is pure political opportunism

In a desperate attempt to gain votes, they  introduced an “axe the tax” gimmick that is mired in propaganda and misinformation. The NDP leader refers to the carbon tax as a “gas tax,” even though the revenue-neutral tax is applied to all fossil fuel combustion.

Of course, this is nothing more than another gimmick designed to make people think that the government is making a money grab from regular people who have to drive to work and school daily.

The NDP make demonstrably false assertions that rural people are unfairly penalized (when in fact people in rural communities typically drive less and have smaller homes); they argue that consumers pay the brunt of the cost (when it’s industry who pays the lion’s share and individuals reap the benefits from concomitant income tax reductions)…

The NDP’s so-called environmental platform is regressive and counter-productive. I hope our message to the world from the election is that political opportunism, gimmickry and short-sightedness doesn’t work with B.C. voters; British Columbians truly care about the environment and intergenerational equity.

UPDATE 3: Despite what the NDP claims the National Roundtable on the Environment and the Economy did not endorse the BC NDP GHG reduction plan:

Matt Horne, Director of BC Energy Solutions for the Pembina Institute, made the following statement in response to the BC NDP’s media release claiming that the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy “rejects carbon tax in favour of cap & trade”:

“The National Round Table report says that Canada needs an economy-wide price on carbon as soon as possible. Experts agree that this could be accomplished through either a carbon tax or a cap and trade system. The Round Table is opting for cap and trade only to align with federal government policy.

The B.C. NDP’s proposal for a limited cap on industrial emitters would only cover up to 32 per cent of B.C.’s pollution, whereas B.C.’s carbon tax covers 76 per cent. So rather than being consistent with the Round Table’s call for an economy-wide price, the NDP’s proposal would take B.C. in the opposite direction.”

The NDP’s assertion that a carbon tax would cost more than a cap and trade system is simply wrong, and is not supported by the Round Table report.”

UPDATE 4: David Suzuki has now personally come out against the NDP as well:

“If [Liberal Leader Gordon Campbell] goes down because of axe the tax, the repercussions are the carbon tax will be toxic for future politicians,” David Suzuki said yesterday.

“No politician will raise it. That’s why environmentalists are so upset.”…

Mr. Suzuki did not endorse the Liberals. He said there is plenty to criticize about themin terms of the environment. He noted that he has been surprised at the absence of more extensive discussion of the Green Party, which has no seats in the legislature, as a “credible” alternative.

He said he expects many conflicted voters could vote Green.

“If environmental voters decide they can’t stomach voting for the NDP or the Liberals, they have got the Greens,” he said. “If you vote for the Greens, you are making a statement about the carbon tax and the other things you don’t like about the Liberals and the NDP.

UPDATE 5: More from Mark Jaccard, via the Vancouver Sun

A recent B.C. NDP press release states that Canada’s National Roundtable on the Environment and the Economy (on which I serve) “clearly supports” the NDP’s climate policy proposal to scrap the carbon tax and that I am Premier Gordon Campbell’s “top adviser” on B.C.’s carbon tax. Neither of these statements is true.

I have never met or communicated with Premier Campbell and did not advise the B.C. government as it rolled out its key climate policies in 2007 and early 2008, including the carbon tax. My only recent advisory role in B.C. was for the climate action team, a committee of citizens and experts proposing climate policy for B.C. in the period 2012 to 2020.

In the first half of 2008, I attended six meetings as the team prepared the report it publicly released in July, long after the carbon tax had been implemented in the February 2008 budget. Ironically, my role advising a citizen’s committee (rather than politicians) was identical to the function I performed in 1998 for the greenhouse gas forum, a citizen advisory committee created by B.C.’s NDP government.

Of course, the NDP did not call me Campbell’s “top adviser” from 2001 to 2006 when I repeatedly criticized his ineffective climate policies of that period. But now that I am applauding his recent climate policies and sharply criticizing the NDP’s alternatives, their strategy is to claim I am no longer independent.

Had I been Campbell’s policy adviser in 2007, when he finally got serious about the climate risk, I would have counselled him against implementing the carbon tax. This is the recommendation I gave, when asked, to Rona Ambrose as Canada’s Conservative environment minister in 2006, to Michael Ignatieff during his campaign for Liberal leader in the same year, and to Stephane Dion in May 2008. I would have told Campbell that while a carbon tax is the most economically efficient and effective way of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, it would be politically safer to implement an equivalent cap-and-trade system instead.

With cap-and-trade, the government allocates tradable emissions permits that add up to a fixed cap, which would decline over time, to reduce emissions. As the cap declines, the value of the smaller number of permits starts to rise, which in turn increases the price of fossil fuels like natural gas, gasoline and home heating oil. Thus, an “economy-wide” cap-and-trade system has the same effect on the price of gasoline as the carbon tax. But when comparing the two, political optics favours cap-and-trade.

I know this sounds cynical. But politicians implementing a carbon tax face a great risk that unscrupulous political opponents will mislead the public by claiming we can reduce emissions without taxing gasoline, conveniently failing to mention that their cap-and-trade alternative should have the same upward effect on its price for the same emissions reductions.

The NDP has taken the game one step further. It is promising British Columbians that the cap-and-trade “alternative” would apply only to industrial emissions, meaning that the price of gasoline would not increase. Yet, the party claims it can match Campbell’s promise to reduce emissions 33 per cent by 2020.

Think of that. The current carbon tax in B.C. covers 75 per cent of emissions, which makes it a leading policy in terms of its coverage. (Not-yet-taxed emissions sources include municipal landfills, agriculture and a few unique industrial process emissions, although the government is apparently working on this.)

The NDP alternative would role this coverage back to about 35 per cent of emissions, yet it promises to achieve the same reductions in 2020. In a recent study, I estimated that major emissions reductions from a cap-and-trade that applied only to industry (with accompanying regulations in transportation and other sectors) would lead to dramatic increases in industrial production costs, forcing cutbacks and even plant closures. Direct and indirect job losses in B.C. would be at least 60,000 from the NDP policy.

This is one of the reasons why we members of the national roundtable say repeatedly in our report that the important issue is not cap-and-trade versus carbon tax, but rather emissions coverage. The report and its technical background documents are full of quotes like “Good design is more important than instrument choice. Either carbon taxes or cap-and-trade systems could be designed to be cost-effective.”

The important message from the roundtable’s new report is to ignore the debate on cap-and-trade versus carbon tax and instead focus on emissions coverage.

For a given level of emissions reduction, the fairer, more effective and more efficient policy is one that covers more emissions. In B.C., it is a choice between 75 per cent and 35 per cent.

UPDATE 6: Conservation Voters of BC launches “Anybody But Carole” campaign, via DeSmogBlog

Frustrated by what they see as a failure in leadership by the BC NDP on the issue of climate change, the high profile Conservation Voters of BC announced today that they are endorsing “Anybody But Carole” in NDP leader Carole James riding of Victoria-Beacon Hill.

UPDATE 7: A high profile group of academics co-wrote a column in the Vancouver Sun today accusing the BC NDP of “intellectual dishonesty” in regards to their position on the carbon tax.

Debunking myths about the B.C. carbon tax
By John Robinson, Shi-Ling Hsu, David Duff and Nancy Olewiler, Special to the Sun

Climate “skeptics” — people who doubt, despite the mounds of evidence, that climate change is a problem worth addressing — are less prevalent today, but they been replaced by purveyors of a new myth: people who tell voters that we can solve the climate change problem without the need for any change in how we live our lives.

The simple but elusive truth is, of course, that climate change is our collective responsibility, and we all have to find ways to transform the energy systems on our planet and to change the way we live. There is no solution to climate change that does not involve changes in consumption and production patterns.

In B.C., Carole James and the NDP are these new mythmakers. The BC NDP promise to “axe the tax,” should they win the provincial election, while accomplishing all the same goals with no cost to BC taxpayers, is nothing short of intellectual dishonesty.

The simple but obscured truth about climate change is that it is a problem with consumption as well as production. Especially in Canada and the U.S., our homes, buildings and communities are clumsy and inefficient, and are built upon assumptions of low prices for fossil fuels. We consume too much of the wrong things because we do not pay the cost of the carbon emissions embedded in everything we do and consume, costs that include the damage we do to our environment — our life support systems.

The consensus among economists and energy policy experts is just as strong as that over climate science: if we want to reduce carbon emissions significantly, then, whatever else we do in the form of regulation, we must place a price on emitting carbon dioxide, and we must price it throughout the economy. One policy effectively addresses this core problem of consumption: a consumption-focused carbon tax. Carbon taxes have been derided as a “tax on everything,” but that is precisely what is needed.

Everything in our economy uses too much fossil fuel, and is produced and shipped in a way that emits too much carbon. That just happens to be a politically difficult thing to say because few politicians are willing to tell voters that we have to consume less of those things that contain carbon or are produced by carbon-based fuels.

Since price increases cause us to consume less or different things, a carbon tax will reduce our consumption of carbon-intensive goods and services and also provide a strong incentive for industry to switch to less carbon-intensive processes and products. Moreover, the B.C. carbon tax applies to virtually all carbon using activities in the province.

The cap and trade policy, proposed by the B.C. NDP to replace the carbon tax, will affect only about one-third of emissions and thus will require permit prices that are much higher than the carbon tax to achieve the same reductions. As pointed out recently by economist Mark Jaccard, such a policy would be ruinous to B.C. industry and result in significant job loss in the province.

Moreover, it is a dangerous illusion to pretend that the cost increases caused by a cap and trade policy would not be passed on to consumers. A better approach, which is part of B.C.’s current climate policy, is to add acap and trade program for industrial emitters to the carbon tax in 2012, adjusted to eliminate double counting.

We should worry, of course, about any tax policy that disproportionately affects the poorer among us. And here the NDP position is also deeply misleading. Through a refundable Climate Action Tax Credit paid to low-income households, the B.C. carbon tax does a very reasonable job of addressing the problems of poor populations that might be disproportionately affected by the carbon tax. For those who think that corporations should bear the bulk of the pain in paying for climate change, remember two things about the BC carbon tax: (1) every penny collected through the tax must, by law, be returned to taxpayers in the form of reductions to other taxes; and (2) while one-third of the carbon tax revenues are paid by individuals and two-thirds by industry, two-thirds of the tax reductions benefit individuals and one-third corporations.

In other words, the current B.C. carbon tax represents a shift in tax burdens from individuals to industry.

The logic of our situation can be summed up in a few sentences. We need to price carbon if we are to achieve our emission reduction goals. Such pricing should cover as wide a spectrum of carbon-using activities as possible and be at a high enough price that it will actually effect energy-using behaviour. The current B.C. carbon tax accomplishes these goals while returning all of the tax revenue to B.C. consumers and industries, thus changing emission-causing behaviour at the point of consumption, at least cost to the taxpayer.

B.C. now has the most effective and equitable climate change policy in North America. In our view it is the only policy now in effect that will actually reduce carbon emissions significantly. Citizens concerned about climate change should celebrate and support this policy. Carbon taxes have been in effect in parts of Europe, but the conventional wisdom is that Canada and the U.S., historically hostile to taxes and particularly consumption taxes, will never accept them. The world is watching to see whether good policy will prevail over opportunistic politics when BC voters go to the polls May 12.

John Robinson is a Professor in the UBC Institute of Resources, Environment, and Sustainability, and was a lead author of the last three reports of the Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change. Shi-Ling Hsu and David Duff are Associate Professors in the UBC Faculty of Law. Nancy Olewiler is Director and Professor of the Public Policy Program at Simon Fraser University.

UPDATE 8: The Ottawa Citizen joins the fray, comparing the BC NDP to Federal Conservative Party.

There is nothing wrong with criticizing the details of the Campbell tax-shift. But tax-shifting in general is an idea so sound that support for it unites nearly all economists and nearly all environmentalists. Done right, it can influence behaviour while putting money in people’s pockets.

Instead of trying to create the best possible tax shift for B.C., the provincial NDP has chosen to follow the populist path blazed by the federal Conservatives, and portray the tax-shift as a cash-grab. This has lost the NDP the support of prominent environmentalists, including Tzeporah Berman. David Suzuki has warned that if the Liberal government in B.C. falls because of the carbon tax, no Canadian politician will be likely to champion tax-shifting for years.

So this election in B.C. is one to watch, even for people who live half a country away.

UPDATE 9: Nature News has a great writeup on the BC Carbon tax and the upcoming election.

North America’s first carbon tax faces judgement
British Columbia’s provincial election showcases climate change politics.

Canadian provincial elections don’t normally merit international attention. But economists and environmentalists are looking to the 12 May election in British Columbia, Canada’s westernmost province, as a test of several climate change policies — including North America’s first carbon tax.

The incumbent BC Liberal party government imposed a province-wide carbon tax in July 2008. Since then, it has been a major campaign issue.

“We are keenly interested in watching this unfold,” says economist Charles Komanoff, co-founder of the non-profit Carbon Tax Centre in New York. “If [the British Columbia tax] persists, it will give a big boost to the cause in the United States.”

British Columbia’s carbon tax was unpopular with many voters from the start, in part because it boosted fuel costs just when oil prices were at a record high. The opposing British Columbia New Democratic Party (NDP) has vowed to “axe the tax”, arguing that it is ineffective and unfair on remote populations. Ironically, the NDP has traditionally been ‘greener’ than the Liberals; it has been accused by some, including Graham Saul of Climate Action Network Canada in Ottawa, Ontario, of taking an anti-carbon-tax stance solely to court votes in a close-running election.

It can be a sensitive political issue. In Canada’s federal election of 2008, the Liberal party campaigned for the “green shift”, a plan to put more of the tax burden onto polluters. They lost a significant number of seats, and the idea of a national carbon tax was scrapped — at least for the time being.

Not easy being green

The showdown highlights the political difficulties of implementing climate change policies even in a green-leaning area: British Columbia was the birthplace of Greenpeace and has long been a centre for environmental activism.

Aside from the carbon tax, battle is also being waged over the issue of independent power production. The incumbent BC Liberals have promoted licences allowing private companies to initiate small hydroelectric projects (of the kind that don’t require a dam). Some favour this plan as the most efficient way to boost renewable power production. Others object, saying companies cannot be trusted to care for the environment when profits are at stake. The NDP promises to scrap this scheme too.

What BC is going through are some of the world’s first growing pains in adapting to the realities of climate policy, says Tzeporah Berman of the climate-change advocacy group PowerUp Canada in Vancouver, British Columbia. “The debate had been all abstract until now,” says Berman. “It had been entirely possible to support a phase-out of fossil fuels and build-out in clean energy without having to face what those things mean in practice.”

Paying at the pump

British Columbia’s carbon tax is simple: all fuels are taxed based on their emissions, at C$10 per tonne of carbon dioxide equivalents. That’s 2.34¢ per litre of petrol at the pump, compared to petrol prices that ranged from 77¢ to C$1.48 per litre in British Columbia in 2008. The tax is planned to ramp up to C$30/tonne by 2012. Concurrent reductions in income tax mean that the tax is ‘revenue neutral’: the province raises no more tax revenue overall than it would without the tax.

Only a few other places in the world have a carbon tax. Sweden and Norway have perhaps the most entrenched systems, but these are more complex and are “riven with exceptions”, says Komanoff. Boulder, Colorado, also hosts a city-wide tax, but only on electricity. “British Columbia is really the world leader,” says Komanoff.

It is hard to say yet whether the British Columbia tax is succeeding in decreasing emissions, particularly because a concurrent drop in fuel prices has swamped it. Transport fuel use has increased in British Columbia, but home alterations for energy efficiency have also increased. The University of British Columbia has cited the carbon tax as one reason for upcoming changes to its natural gas power system. One economic model suggests a tax of C$200/tonne would be needed by 2020 to prompt emissions cuts large enough to avoid dangerous climate change.

Price on emissions

The BC Liberals support the development of a cap-and-trade scheme in addition to the carbon tax; the NDP favours cap-and-trade alone, citing US President Barack Obama’s interest in such a scheme. Taxation has the advantage of being fast to implement, however. The British Columbia carbon tax came into force within 5 months of being announced in February 2008; the Western Climate Initiative cap-and-trade programme, a US–Canadian scheme including California, British Columbia, and several other provinces and states, won’t come into force before 2012.

Mark Jaccard, an environmental economist at Simon Fraser University, near Vancouver, whose work informed the current carbon tax policy, says he has no particular preference for one scheme or the other. “I don’t care. You just have to get a price on emissions,” he says.

Current polls put the BC Liberals slightly ahead of the NDP. If they win, the carbon tax and independent power-production schemes will survive.

The lesson learned from British Columbia is that revenue neutrality needs to be made more clear, says Komanoff: voters have tended to notice the additional tax but not the compensating tax cuts. Cash rebates could be a better alternative, he says.

Perhaps the best thing to do is simply ensure that the world’s next carbon tax doesn’t come into effect at the same time as an oil price spike and a recession: “There’s just a lot of bad luck there,” Komanoff says.

UPDATE 10: Former BC NDP Premier Mike Harcourt has thrown support behind provincial carbon tax:

Former NDP premier Mike Harcourt has joined the movement lobbying for a carbon tax in the midst of an election campaign, arguing the tax will be part of the future despite an NDP commitment to kill it if the party wins next Tuesday.

Mr. Harcourt, the premier from 1991 to 1996, has signed an op-ed piece published today on globeandmail.com, along with such luminaries as environmentalist David Suzuki, that calls for a carbon tax and cap-and-trade system working in conjunction to spur innovation and clean-energy solutions.

The carbon tax and cap-and-trade system should cover all of B.C.’s greenhouse gas emissions and should be enhanced over time to enable B.C. to achieve or surpass its legislated emissions target,” reads the article, also co-signed by the mayors of North Vancouver, Dawson Creek, Whistler, Kelowna and Castlegar.

But NDP Leader Carole James has made the demise of the tax a key part of her campaign platform.

The point about the tax and/or any cap and trade system covering all of BC’s GHG emissions is key. Currently The Liberal plan includes roughly 76% of emissions, while the proposed NDP plan will only cover 32%. Clearly the Liberal plan can be improved, but it is still far superior to what the NDP have proposed.

And that is precisely why myself and others have been criticizing the NDP as much as we have. They can do better.

16 thoughts on “BC NDP global warming plan: bad for the environment, bad for the economy [UPDATED]

Add yours

  1. I’m not entirely following how the Liberals’ plan is good for the economy or the environment, either. They get points for the carbon tax. But they seem to lose points for increasing forestry, increasing offshore drilling, and allowing private companies to divert rivers. Don’t they?

    As for the economy, I think the Liberals’ terrible record speaks for itself….

  2. The main difference between the NDP and Liberal plan is that the liberal plan covers 76% of the province’s emissions while the NDP’s plan would lower that to 32%, thus placing the burden of carbon pricing on a much smaller portion on the economy (aka industry). Secondly the NDP plans offers no tax breaks for businesses, the Liberal plan does, thus easing the pain of carbon pricing. Thats why the Liberal plan isn’t detrimental to the economy. See here and here for more.

    As for how it works, basically it makes the undesirable emissions more expensive, thus motivating people and industry to emit less (yes it is more complex than that but that is the gist of it). See here, here, here, here andhere for more.

    But you are right that they loose points in other areas, which is why I included them in my post. Still the NDP’s record was also spotty when they were on power (Kemano and Clayoquot come to mind).

    As for the economy, I am not sure I know what you mean. I think the Liberals have done a decent job, given the circumstances, and again comparing the Liberal record to the NDP record… well it aint pretty. Remember the fast ferries?

  3. Oh and in regards to offshore drilling, remember that the BC Liberals don’t have the final say on the matter, the Feds do. And for reasons that escape me, yet am glad for, Harper hasn’t lifted the moratorium despite the pressure from BC.

  4. So – let me get this straight, you are relying on an advisor to Campbell on the carbon tax (Jaccard) to say that the NDP plan is bad? Why don’t you just quote Jeffrey Simpson as an objective source – oh, wait – he wrote a book with Jaccard on this topic. You might as well relying on sound bites from Stephane Dion as supporting evidence.

  5. Dan,

    Fast ferries were a debacle, that’s true. However, there seems to have been some (not total, but some) house-cleaning in the party on that score. And the Liberals’ BC Rail deal doesn’t seem much better (to say nothing of the money being blown on the Olympics; I have no confidence that any of that will come back).

    The NDP have put out this on the BC Liberals’ economic policies. The job loss dig is probably not fair, given that every province is losing jobs. But the increased costs of living as a middle- or working-class person in BC seem like fair marks against the BC Liberals.

    The links you give about the Liberals’ plan are about the federal Liberals’ plan. Not the BC Liberals’ plan. The two parties have no affiliation, so moving between the two is not kosher. I should note, though, that there is far from consensus amongst economists as to whether a carbon tax or cap-and-trade with a hard cap is likely to be more efficient. Jaccard has hung his hat on the tax idea, but others (I can dig up references, if you like, but they will be to academic journals likely not freely available online) are defending cap-and-trade. So, I don’t think we should accept that either is necessarily better.


    Jaccard was an advisor to the NDP government in the 90’s. He’s pretty clean.

  6. @ ADHR

    I am aware that the sast ferries and other NDP debacles were a long time ago and that the party has changed significantly since then. But it is really all we can go on, and many of the same ideologies that lead to trouble last time the NDP was in power still exist. Still this is all very speculative.

    I don’t really trust getting my information on the Liberals from the NDP, but suffice to say that both parties have black spots on their record.

    Also I know that some of the links I provided go are specifically about the federal Green Shift, but much of what is said about the Green Shift can be applied to the BC Liberal plan. The main difference between both plans was in how revenue neutrality was achieved, and that really has little bearing on how effective the policy is at reducing GHGs. Unfortunately there is little analysis like that for the BC carbon tax… that I am aware of.

    As for Jaccard, I would disagree that he has ‘hung his hat on the tax idea’. I have heard him specifically say that he is ok with either cap and trade or a carbon tax as a means for carbon pricing. I would however say that he has ‘hung his hat’ on the notion that carbon pricing must include emissions from the entire economy. To me that seems easier to do with a carbon tax, but as long as all emissions are priced, both methods should wonk in a similar fashion.


    ADHR is correct, Jaccard is clean. As an other example of this, Jaccard was recently working with the Federal Conservatives, but that didn’t stop him from criticizing them when they dishonestly attacked the Green Shift, and publicly state that of the three main federal party’s GHG policy only the Green Shift had any real chance of succeeding.

  7. One more thing. I want to make it clear that I am not suggesting anyone vote for the Liberals. There are many factors to take into consideration when deciding who to vote for.

    All I am suggesting is that in regards to carbon pricing (IMO the most important aspect of any GHG reduction policy) the Liberals have a much better plan than the NDP.

    Is that enough reason to vote for them? That is up to you.

  8. Jeebus Dan, good piece. You looking for a Pulitzer. By the way, the NYT has a piece on internal documents from a GW Denialist lobby, the Global Climate Coalition that accepted that AGW-driven climate change was clearly established and could not be denied — and yet collected their fees and proceeded to do just that, churn up denial fantasies. They knew the truth, no question, but they knew there were enough denialist morons they could just keep feeding this crap to and plenty of bucks to be made for doing it.

  9. You know what? I have a response to your post. You probably won’t like it, as I come out pretty damn hard against environmentalists.

    I won’t reiterate anything, but I will expand on a few of my thoughts.

    Just how politically boneheaded are Jaccard and Suzuki? I respect their intelligence, but right now, I’m questioning their wisdom. To release their criticisms right now, in the intense heat of the election? The optics is horrible, for one thing, as Dippers and supporters will see this a partisan attack. I hardly consider myself partisan in any sense – I vote NDP because there’s no viable socialist party for me – and yet even I’m somewhat questioning these guys’ motives.

    Another reflection I have is a carbon tax is by its very existence a difficult policy to implement. Oh, it could work, in a perfect world. But consider BC. It has a growing homeless population. The working poor are becoming poorer. Bills are increasing. The interest on payments due just keep increasing. And whatever taxes are collected are used on corporations rather than on infrastructure and the social safety net. And our leaders are saying we’re in a recession, even though for us on the bottom, it’s been that way for years. Doesn’t the carbon tax in an unfair society seemingly further increase the burden on those who already can’t even afford the basics in society?

    Personally, I wish the NDP would rather promise to revisit the carbon tax, to make it more fair, whatever that means, and to crack down on heavy emitters, whoever they are. Vagueness in politics is good, and so is in-depth policy.

    But the fact is, the NDP will gain more votes promising to axe the tax than to reform it. Whether that’s sad or not is really up to whoever cares.

    Another fact is, if the NDP are facing opposition from environmentalists, then that’s probably a positive, at least here in BC.

    I remember the nineties, and so do many people. In fact, there are loads more people who remember the eighties, and the seventies too. I won’t pull my punches here. Environmentalists might be book smart, but when it comes to people, they’re complete meatheads.

    You can tell I’m rather fatalistic when it comes to environmental policy here in BC.

    And whether they know it or not, environmentalists have gotta start with changing their public image before they actually begin to influence public opinion.

  10. A quick look at the background of either of these groups will tell anyone that these aren’t partisan attacks. But the reason they are releasing their criticisms now is two fold.

    First, they want to influence the election. This doesn’t mean it is a partisan attack, however, it is just an attack on ineffective policies.

    Secondly, the BC NDP just recently released the details of this plan. They couldn’t criticize it before (except perhaps in the broadest of strokes) because they didn’t know the details.

    As for your criticisms of how the tax revenue is redistributed, remember that “one-third of the carbon tax revenues are paid by individuals and two-thirds by industry, two-thirds of the tax reductions benefit individuals and one-third corporations.“.

    Now you might argue that more money should be returned to people with low incomes, and that is fair enough, but that isn’t the NDP’s position and it isn’t the point of this post.

  11. I’m not fan of politics. But I like to see the game played well. A rather strange contradiction, but that’s me.

    I could care less if Jaccard or Suzuki are bipartisan, while at the same I will dare them to continue on their damaging criticism of the NDP. If the NDP lose the election, then Jaccard and Suzuki’s role will become apparent, and this will become another divide between one-issue activists such as self-titled environmentalists, and the NDP.

    You need to remember, the NDP and environmentalists are not friendly with each other. There’s history here in BC (Clayoquot Sound, being a somewhat recent example). It’s bitter and full of anger, and even hate.

    If the environmentalists were hoping to affect change in NDP policy, they sure as hell picked the wrong manner in which to do it. They will not force any change in the politics, but further to drive the NDP and supporters away into a fighting stance.

    Where the hell is the diplomacy? Where the hell is the environmentalist getting on the phone with Carole James, day after day, demanding she release the NDP policy on cap and trade?

    Even sitting here on the rez, hundreds and hundreds of kilometres away from Victoria, I could smell something wrong about the NDP cap and trade. But I’m no expert. I just do whatever little I can do, and hope those in charge have some idea that we’re muddling away in the right direction. I know that we ain’t, but I got the hope in me while voicing whatever questions I can think of. Never got any serious answers, but I was never afraid to ask them.

    I hoped the experts were speaking out on their fears and concerns about the NDP cap and trade policy, trying to goad the leadership into releasing details, but for months and months, even after the federal NDP had released their own, which is pretty much what the provincial parties will follow, I’ve heard absolutely nothing from Suzuki or Jaccard.

    And then the election happens, and suddenly when the NDP finally releases its fast ferry of a cap and trade policy, the environmentalists finally speak up? Talk about arm-chair activism!

    And where are our brave environmentalists on issues such as poverty? Crime? Joblessness? Homelessness? Inequality? Racism? Police brutality?

    Speaking on oh-so-grand ideas of a green economy and how it can fix all that and pretty much everything else, but only if we do the right thing, whatever that is, since it’s always changing day to day (we just don’t measure up, I suppose). But all they do is talk. They don’t offer anything. And they bitch and complain that we all aren’t doing nothing. And yet they don’t have the courage to speak on any other issue than the environment. They will not dare risk their name speaking on behalf of Robert Dziekanski. Or the war in Afghanistan. Or the military industrial complex. Or the failed state of Mexico. Or broken treaties between Canada and First Nations.

    What I’m trying to say is, the environmentalists are going to have to change themselves before they can affect any serious change here in BC. They can’t just sit back and do nothing about the other problems normal people have to face everyday. They gotta get their hands dirty helping us to till the earth. They gotta muck about with us, and get to know us, and our way of life too, cause we cannot afford to live like they do. We’ve got kids to look after. We’ve got grand parents to care for. We’ve got a whole world of problems that environmentalists simply choose to ignore in lieu of pursuing utopia.

    What I’m trying to say is, environmentalists have got to come to us too. They can’t just demand we meet them where they are. We ain’t all got that sort of luxury. And when they run off to the Aspers to get their comments published nationally, it stinks like grandstanding than actual activism.

    We ain’t famous like Suzuki. We ain’t power players like Jaccard. We ain’t rich like Green Peace. We ain’t crazy like PETA. And we don’t even know who the hell Sierra Club is other than they keep sticking their noses into our business while giving us no alternatives to what we’re doing to keep ahead of the bills and taxes.

    Put your feet on the ground where the rest of us have to stand, and speak with us rather than lecturing. Maybe then, environmentalists will find some sort of progress.

  12. Troy, environmentalist leaders don’t serve as some sort of shadow government to tackle everything from the war in Afghanistan to the rapidly failing state of Mexico. It’s both unrealistic and unfair for you to expect that of them. If you don’t wish to support them or find their work irrelevant, that’s your choice. They very much have their hands full with the single environment issue and I don’t see how you can fault them for that.

  13. Viewed in retrospect, the degree to which Dan’s post relies on Liberal sources as if they were actually sources is really kind of funny. Not just Jaccard and Robinson and Olewiler, but even Richard Littlemore, a career propagandist and long time Liberal along with his associated Kevin Grandia.

    However, I wonder what the amusement factor will be in, say, 24 or 48 month’s time? Just as an aside, here’s something I would really like to see included in Scott Simpson’s Energy Blog in the Sun:


  14. @ Rob

    You aren’t adding anything by simply dismissing the point raised in my post because it relies on ‘Liberal sources’

    Especially when you consider Jaccard a ‘Liberal source’. He is nothing of the sort. Yes he has done work for the BC Liberals (as well as many other governments, but that is what happens when you are the nations foremost economist on issues such as these), but that doesn’t mean he isn’t above criticizing them. He also did work for the Federal Conservatives, but that didn’t stop him from criticizing them. In fact he also done work for the BC NDP. Also note that even the commenter ADHR (who is an NDP supporter and a strong critic of both the BC Liberals and DeSmogBlog) said that Jaccard was clean.

    The same thing goes for environmental groups such as The David Suzuki Foundation, the Pembina Institute and ForestEthics who traditionally have been much more alligned with the BC NDP. And the Conservation Voters of BC could also not be called a Liberal source.

    And if that wasn’t enough we also have Andrew Weaver (Climatologist from UVic), John Robinson (Professor in the UBC Institute of Resources, Environment, and Sustainability, and was a lead author of the last three reports of the Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change), Shi-Ling Hsu and David Duff (Both are Associate Professors in the UBC Faculty of Law, Nancy Olewiler (Director and Professor of the Public Policy Program at Simon Fraser)University, the Ottawa citizen, and even former BC NDP Premier MIke Harcourt.

    Are you still willing to stand by your claim that I relied solely on Liberal sources?

  15. As for the link you provided, it is off-topic, but I did mention run-of-river projects when discussing the environmental black marks of the BC Liberals.

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