Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Canadians Favor Carbon Tax

People hate taxes, so any question on that topic comes with a built-in negativity. Despite that dynamic, a new SC poll shows Canadians favor a carbon tax. This finding is even more remarkable, when you consider the article title "Anxiety grows about economy, jobs, poll finds". The economy is more of a concern, yet people still favor a tax, which assumes an economic cost. IMHO, that reality makes these numbers all the more impressive:
Do you support the idea of a carbon tax?

Support 49%

Oppose 44%

Of note, the "western canada" subset favors a carbon tax 47%-45%

The SC poll details the growing pessimism on the economy. However, when Canadians are asked to list issues of importance, the environment rating is almost double that of the economy:
Environment 20%

Health Care 13%

Economy 11%.


The environment is the number one issue, in all regions of Canada. Economic concern is most appreciable in Ontario, and yet the environment still tops the list.

Given the findings of the government advisory board, which argued for a carbon tax, coupled with an apparent openness on behalf of Canadians, it would appear the "climate" is ripe for the Liberals to evolve their position and adopt a carbon tax as part of the environmental policy.

24 comments:

The Grumpy Voter said...

>>The environment is the number one issue, in all regions of Canada. Economic concern is most appreciable in Ontario, and yet the environment still tops the list.<<

Give the economy time, the recession in the US hasn't hit us yet. Once we see job losses, increased factory closures, higher fuel prices and the fact that Canadians who are utterly buried in debt suddenly unable to pay their bills, I suspect the environment will plummet to the bottom of priority issues for voters. Finally, I'm pretty sure history shows that voters will punish any party that creates a new tax during a time of economic conflagration.

Steve V said...

grumpy

Hate to break it too you, but Ontario and Quebec have already seen substantial job losses, higher fuel costs everywhere, so your theoretical is actually practical, which speaks to my point. Just because you want the issue to drop to the bottom doesn't mean it will :)

The Grumpy Voter said...

The overwhelming majority of Canadians are not directly impacted by an economic slowdown... yet. You're jumping the gun and I am simply being practical. When we hit double digit unemployment once again (and it can/will happen again, trust me) paying the bills generally becomes the primary concern for pretty much everyone. Add a new tax into the lives of millions of voters who are struggling to get by, well... good luck selling it.

Steve V said...

grumpy

The thrust of my post, the resilience of the issue, despite the growing concerns about the economy. There isn't an economist out there that suggest the depression-like scenario that you lay out, so I would rather deal with reality, as opposed to some unsubstantiated personal preference. Besides, there is a very compelling argument to be made, that factors in the economic costs of doing nothing, not to mention the potential of a green economy.

rabbit said...

I think Grumpy is overstating the case (depression and double-digit unemployment are pretty aggressive forecasts), but the smart money is always on the economy as the #1 concern with voters. Everything else is - in practise - a luxury concern.

And I think Grumpy is right - we are only beginning to feel the effects of a downturn. When it dominates the newscasts, people will take notice.

Have you seen the number of trucks and SUV's on the road? Have you seen the size of houses people build these days? These are clear statements of people's true priority, and never mind how they answer polling questions.

Steve V said...

"Have you seen the number of trucks and SUV's on the road?"

Have you seen the recent sales? Been to the Detroit auto show, where fuel efficiency is the overwhelming buzzword? Have you noticed which automakers are losing market share, which ones are doing well, and the models that are driving the market? You mention "feeling the effects", I would argue we are just starting to see the "effects" of rising oil prices.

Yes, the economy is a central issue, and if we fall into a recession, then the bottomline trumps. That said, you can't dismiss other issues, and this poll proves that fact, in spades.

I would add, I favor a tax on new homes that are excessive in size, a "luxury tax", with all monies collected used to counter-act the carbon footprint.

The Mound of Sound said...

Carbon taxes are a legitimate option so long as the revenue raised is put to an appropriate, carbon-reduction application. To raise a tax simply to line the government's vote-buying treasury undercuts the potential benefit of a true climate change iniative.

Steve V said...

mound

Did you happen to see this post, which is exactly the posture we can expect in the future. I've argued before, that the Baird "unilateral" nonsense, crippling our economy, fails to acknowledge the moral justification for imposing import taxes on any goods, coming from countries which don't apply the same restrictions that our industry does. What the EU is proposing is exactly the way you leverage others, and even the playing field, mitigating economic consequence.

rabbit said...

Here are two reasons car makers are concentrating on environmentally friendly cars...

1. The price of gasoline.

2. Impending environmental legislation.

Notice there's no need to assume that consumers are actually more concerned with the environment. I'm sure some are, but I think points #1 and #2 are the main drivers.

Detroit is just positioning itself for the days of $2/liter gasoline.

Steve V said...

"Detroit is just positioning itself for the days of $2/liter gasoline."

No, Detroit is trying to survive, the layoffs have already happened for the American automakers. There is another reason for the focus, which you fail to recognize, it's called "demand" (see Japanese auto sales numbers and models).

The Grumpy Voter said...

I'm not speaking of a depression like scenario, I remember the recession in the 1980's like it was yesterday - that's not a long time ago and we had double digit unemployment in Canada as recently as 1993.(It was 12% back then - it took fifteen years to get it to 6.3% and it won't take fifteen years to hit 10%) Very simply, the good times cannot last forever and when the good times end, people generally focus they're priorities on necessities like paying the bills, or gasp, finding a job! It's a simple fact. I work in a field that will bear the brunt of job losses in a recession. I am over forty - cripes, I had enough trouble finding this job - who the hell is going to hire me if we're balls deep in a recession? For me (and I suspect most people) it's all fine and good to talk about the environment or the positive benefits of a carbon tax, but when the EI runs out and you can't pay your rent, your focus is generally on making through each day.

Steve V said...

grumpy

Why are we talking about the theoretical? Let's deal with what is happening, worst-case scenario is a slowdown, with little talk of an actual recession. It would seem people want to create doom and gloom to undercut the environment as an issue. I would rather deal with the situation at present, because the policies come from that mindset. I would add, there is an economic upside to a green revolution, so it is not a one-sided argument.

Mushroom said...

We will see if McCain wins Michigan.

Success there may help Dion promote the need for economic restructuring policies, rather than asking Flaherty to put forth incentives to help the manufacturing sector in Ontario.

Of course, the auto sector is not really suffering at all in Ontario. Toyota and Honda are planning expansions in Woodstock and Newmarket respectively. Just got to get on Buzz's good side so Dion can knock off Layton ;).

Sandra said...

I suggest that the author of this blog burn their drivers license and others that feel as she does also ... that will save 49% of carbon being placed in the atmosphere. The problem is that the author can not do that ... too dependant upon carbon producing car/truck/suv. How will the food get to the grocery store?

Are you are in favor of another tax go for it, such as the “consideration” of raising the GST back to 7% as suggested by Dion? We are the most heavily taxed country in the G7 and the Liberals want to add more? I suggest - if the Liberals get elected - that we just send our check to them, and they decide what we get back. That would save us from even bothering to compete with the world markets.

The Liberals want us to join Kyoto - and give the money collected from a carbon tax to the world’s greatest polluters - China, India, Russia etc. - while we get poorer and poorer. Carbon tax is a "guilt tax” and if you burn your drivers license you will help us in a great way. I do not see the environmentalists standing on the corners burning their licenses as proof of their commitment to global warming; no … they drive like the rest of us and really do not put their possession before economy.

David Suzuki proved that by going across Canada in a polluting bus then flew back to Ont. To give a speech … there is no need for a carbon tax, for it is the poorest of Canadians which will have to pay the most [unless the environmentalists buy the cars for them to cut emissions.] Yes … according to poll you presented 49% are in favor of such a tax ... but that leaves 51% that do not want it. Most of that vote is a result of the fear mongering and being uninformed by people like Gore and Suzuki and much of the false data they use. When one listens to a real climatologists their arguments are shot down [the fact that Gore and others do not dare debate the facts with a real climatologists reveals their true beliefs which are imposed on the newest religion called Global Warming.]

Results will mean nothing when more jobs are lost and transportation is out-of-reach for the average/poor Canadian. I agree with “the grumpy voter”: “… the good times cannot last forever and when the good times end, people generally focus their priorities on necessities like paying the bills, or gasp, finding a job! It's a simple fact.” And if carbon tax is imposed – which goes to other countries as the Liberals want to under Kyoto – the Canadian public opinion will change along with the consideration of raising the GST to 7%. The Conservatives are fighting pollution to cut carbon output [not a perfect plan but while getting industry – not only the oil industry – to cut emissions. That will include the mining, smelting, auto, manufacturing …. industries. You may not like their approach, but at least they have done more in fighting carbon emissions in two years than the Liberals did in 10 years under Dion.

Steve V said...

"We are the most heavily taxed country in the G7 and the Liberals want to add more?"

Actually, that's not true, but carry on with your Con talking point, fact be damned.

sandra

You used "false data" in referencing Suzuki. You are a clueless moron, who cares what you have to say. Seriously. I'm done arguing with you fools, thankfully the next generations are entirely on side, so we just have to wait for you dinosaurs to die off. You're a bad joke.

Raphael Alexander said...

This whole carbon tax concept is really like sprinkling a a few teardrops at a forest fire.

If we're going to combat climate change, it comes down to a lot more than anything Canada is willing to do. And when the recession hits Canada [and it will], the Liberals will be throwing out the carbon tax faster than a federal government dumps a bureaucrat for doing her job.

Scott Janzen said...

I think you all are missing the point... and a tremendous opportunity. Having a Carbon Tax means we might have an opportunity to wean our provincial and federal governments off of the illogical and counterproductive income tax.

Regardless of your belief in climate change or faith in Liberals or Conservatives (both have abysmal track records on the environment), wouldn't you all rather pay a carbon tax (that you can control by changing your behaviour) than income tax (that you can reduce by hiring a good accountant and a team of lawyers or by reducing your income).

In Canada, a business that loses money is encouraged as there is no tax to pay on a loss. Businesses that make money are then penalized for being successful. With a carbon tax, both businesses pay based on their consumption, and the smart business makes a profit in an environmentally conscious way, while the polluting, money losing business ceases to exist and makes way for smarter enterprises.

Tax the bad, and get out of the way for the good.

Raphael Alexander said...

Scott, that's all fine and dandy, but who's talking about income tax cuts? The only rhetoric is calling for carbon taxes which would create severe complications to millions of Canadians. And over what? So any gains made can be reversed by this?

Steve V said...

scott

That is a pretty interesting perspective.

raphael

"If we're going to combat climate change, it comes down to a lot more than anything Canada is willing to do."

That's the spirit. I prefer to believe people can actually accomplish things, if they put their minds to it.

Raphael Alexander said...

Steve, the worst part of carbon taxes is that it won't be the corporations paying for it. Or the sanctimonious politicians. Or the wealthy Hummer drivers who won't care how much it costs to alleviate whatever conscience they do or do not have.

No, it'll come right down to the middle and lower classes. How? Simple:

1. Inflationary effects of the taxation. Any increase in taxes will increase the overall costs of production in every industry, meaning the cost of living will outstrip the the adjustments.

2. Increased fuel costs will drive people into unemployment or localized employment. It may not necessarily be a bad thing, since it will centralize production and curtail urban sprawl which tied to the SUV.

3. As the inefficiencies of the market are taken care of, massive layoffs should ensure we have a healthy unemployment rate while new markets are opened to "greener" pastures.

I've written my thoughts on carbon taxation here.

Steve V said...

raphael

That's true initially, the trickle down. I would argue however that industries which adapt quickly will be competitive, the market will dictate demand, as products which avoid, or lessen, the tax impact become attractive. If you put a tax on gas, then fuel efficient vehicles become more attractive, and the consumer can neutralize the negative impact by adjusting their behavior, buying a vehicle which offsets- net neutral. Industry still produces a product, so you don't eliminate, you just adjust the market to factor in costs.

Raphael Alexander said...

If you put a tax on gas, then fuel efficient vehicles become more attractive, and the consumer can neutralize the negative impact by adjusting their behavior, buying a vehicle which offsets- net neutral.

This laissez-faire approach to what amounts to a governmental interference is a contradiction in terms. If the government wants to restrict carbon emissions and promote efficiency, it would subsidize those contracts which are efficient, enabling the middle and lower classes the "luxury" of being environmentally friendly.

Steve V said...

raphael

If you subsidize, then you effectively need revenue. Where does the government get revenue? You end up in the same place, don't you?

Raphael Alexander said...

Steve, the investment of subsidization is rewarded in continued economical participation. Fuel-efficient cars would allow the middle and lower class workers to continue driving to work, maintaining the economy while it shifts to meet areas efficient to the new energy sectors. If the government shrugs it off and places the onus on us alone, we're not going to be able to live up to the idealistic dreams of Dion based on our own shortage of funds.

Of course, any time the government wants to lower our marginal tax rates and implement a consumption tax instead, I'd be all for it.