Wednesday, March 20, 2024

The Carbon Tax: In Memorium

Max Fawcett writes that the carbon tax is dead:

How did the Trudeau government’s signature climate policy turn into a political albatross? As Ernest Hemingway might say: gradually, then suddenly.

Pierre Poilievre’s pledge to “axe the tax” has helped him open up an increasingly massive lead in the polls, while almost every provincial premier — including the last remaining Liberal one, Newfoundland’s Andrew Furey — is now calling for the carbon tax to be paused. Even progressive heavyweights and potential future premiers like Ontario Liberal Leader Bonnie Crombie and Alberta NDP leadership contender Rakhi Pancholi have announced climate plans that don’t include a consumer carbon tax, presumably guided by the assumption that the federal carbon tax won’t be around much longer. If the Trudeau Liberals don’t cut this increasingly heavy political anchor loose, it’s going to drag them even further underwater.

That ground is now lost. Continuing to wax rhapsodic about the intellectual virtues of carbon pricing isn’t going to help the Liberals recover any of it. Neither will trying to point out the hypocrisy in the Conservative attacks on it and their implicit preference for regulations, as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau did recently. Instead, it’s time for a full strategic retreat — ironically, to the very political territory Trudeau was accusing the Conservatives of occupying.

Pierre Poilievre will continue to crow. But that doesn't mean that climate policy is dead. Trudeau can:

scrap the consumer portion of the carbon tax and focus instead on the programs and incentives that can help consumers reduce their emissions. It should maintain the industrial carbon tax and proceed with policies like the oil and gas sector emissions cap and clean electricity regulations that put the onus on heavy emitters. It should invite Poilievre and the conservative premiers backing him to protect the oil and gas industry from paying for its pollution. And it should challenge the Conservative Party of Canada to finally come up with its own plan that goes beyond mere slogans and achieves some measure of substance.

He can tie Poilievre’s CPC to Danielle Smith and Scott Moe and use their ongoing fealty to oil and gas industry executives and hostility towards climate policy and clean energy as a different kind of political anchor. And he can deprive Poilievre of his favourite political weapon and dull his broader attack around affordability issues.

If he has one last trick in his political bag that can fundamentally change the political mood the way his pledge to run deficits did in 2015, this is probably it. Kill the carbon tax and live to fight another day. If he plays this card right, Canadians might still get the climate change election we deserve — and his party desperately needs — in 2025.

But don't count on it. We live in an age that has been marked by the rise of the Fatally Stupid.

Image: VOCM


Lorne said...

At this point, Owen, I wonder if anything Trudeau might do can salvage his electoral prospects. Should he follow the article's suggestion, Poilievre would simply take credit for it, and crow once again about how much 'better' life will be for all Canadians when they elect him and his party.

Owen Gray said...

I'm not sure Trudeau can recover, Lorne. But I shudder when I think about Prime Minister Poilievre.

Trailblazer said...

Had the taxpayer seen something , anything from the carbon tax such as more buses or rapid transit then I dont think the reaction to the tax would be the same.
It makes little sense that the liberals carbon tax exists at the same time as the $30 billion Trans Mountain pipeline completion!


Owen Gray said...

There's been a messaging problem from the beginning, TB.

MoS said...

Trudeau wasted no time after his 2015 majority win revealing his perfidy. First Nations reconciliation, "follow the science" governance, social licence, no pipelines, electoral reform and more. One by one he reneged on every promise. One, even two, may have been acceptable but not the lot of them.

Now he proposes more carbon taxes when his new bitumen pipeline is scheduled to go online in April. Is the guy schizophrenic or just a compulsive liar? Does that even matter? This is not a messaging problem, Owen. It's an honesty problem. It's an integrity problem, an inexcusable moral failure.

The sooner the Liberal Party is rid of Trudeau the better but only if they recalibrate their political compass that has been skewed ever since they foolishly annointed Ignatieff their leader.

I still don't despise the Liberals as I do the Conservatives but they do seem intent on closing the gap.

Owen Gray said...

From my perspective, Mound, things look pretty dark.

Northern PoV said...

I agree with most of the commentary here, that Jr.'s perfidy, especially on the low-hanging-fruit/big-issues of vote reform and reviving the dead TMX pipeline, have set the table for his enemies' feast.

That said, his collapse, "gradually, then suddenly" and the simultaneous and sudden media-makeover/'polling success' of the anti-charisma Lil'PP is right out of George Orwell's cookbook.

"The Party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command."

Trailblazer said...

Re, Mound and.
electoral reform and more.

That one still sticks in my throat.
The lack of electoral reform has lead us to the situation we are now in.
I don't think there would have been room for extreme right politics had we had a different approach to party politics.
As for Trudeau .
He has always acted the way that he is.
A spoiled brat trading on the name of his father ; a controversial but capable prime minister.


Owen Gray said...

We are in a bad way, TB.

Owen Gray said...

Kim Campbell's right, PoV. Simply put, he's a liar.

zoombats said...

I always questioned the Canadian publics headlong endorsement of Junior based on the fathers name. I don't think they bargained for any attributes of those from his mother. Just saying.

Owen Gray said...

Justin has some of his father's stubbornness and arrogance, zoombats. But the circumstances he faces are not the same as the ones his father faced. The worlds of fathers and sons are rarely the same.