Opinion: Carbon tax relief is appreciated

Seldom has the pain of a punishing tax been so clearly exposed. Hours after the Jason Kenney government killed the carbon tax, Albertans began saving money at the gas pumps — considerable money.

The thinking among some people is that high gas prices make for good public policy, because they encourage consumers to drive less, buy fuel-efficient vehicles, and take public transit or walk.

Such an argument doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. Now that gas prices have tumbled, for instance, it’s unlikely that motorists are going to drive aimlessly through the countryside simply because the release of greenhouse gases is a little less expensive than it was a week ago.

The saving of several cents on a litre of fuel won’t change behaviour, but it will leave money in the economy more efficiently than collecting the cash and then having high-priced bureaucrats cut cheques to those deemed worthy of a rebate.

There was no specific relief for businesses, nor for consumers who faced higher prices for goods and services because of the carbon tax’s impact on essentials such as food.

Albertans are also no more likely to stop taking the bus or walking to work today. Such decisions are based on more than the price of a litre of gas; they’re guided as much by personal preference, access to convenient bus service and proximity to work.

The choices of car buyers are also not likely to be dictated by the price of gas alone. North Americans have been buying trucks and SUVs in greater numbers because of a preference for the models, regardless of the cost of fuel.

Besides, if higher gas prices are to be encouraged, why is B.C. Premier John Horgan in such a lather over the climbing cost of a litre of gas on the populous Lower Mainland?

Surely, if prices are among the highest in North America, that’s a good thing for the environment, and in a Hail Mary for our planet, British Columbians will throttle back their fuel consumption.

Instead, under pressure from wallet-watching voters, Horgan has begun a review of the escalating fuel prices in his province.

It’s evident that high gas prices are only a good outcome if the government is in control of the switch, determining when prices go up and by how much, and where the additional cash flows to.

In Alberta’s case, carbon tax money has gone to subsidize green energy projects that wouldn’t get off the ground without tax support.

High gas prices aren’t necessarily a good thing, Horgan’s recent behaviour has demonstrated.

On that point, most Albertans would agree.

Most Albertans also agree hypocrites, such as carbon-tax cheerleader Justin Trudeau, should be called out. He admonishes Canadians for their carbon footprint, then flies from Ottawa to Tofino, B.C., for the Easter weekend to indulge in a bit of surfing.

The prime minister flies to Florida and back, not once, but twice, within a week on holiday.

Albertans, enjoying their own brief carbon tax holiday at the gas pumps this summer, would do well to keep the gap between the words and the actions of climate change advocates such as Horgan and Trudeau in mind.

David Marsden is managing editor of the Red Deer Advocate.

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