Most British Columbians now believe they have an individual responsibility to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, even if other people don't do the same, according to a new poll on environmental attitudes.
The survey by Harris/Decima also found that British Columbians want Canada to do what it can to reduce climate change, regardless of whether other countries take similar action.
The survey found 75 per cent of British Columbians say they are prepared to alter their behaviour significantly to fight climate change. And that 66 per cent are prepared to pay more money for many products designed to address environmental problems.
The Baird argument, that any action must include India and China:
A strong majority of respondents -- 90 per cent -- disagree with the argument that Canada should do nothing to reduce emissions unless big emitting countries such as China and India do as well.
People are prepared to lead.
The most relevant finding, primarily because British Columbians already have the practical when it comes to "paying more" for harmful practices, is that 2/3 are prepared to accept a hit to their wallet. You could argue, this type of finding supports Dion's looming tax shift policy.
That said, there are conflicting signals. A poll released after the carbon tax was rolled out in British Columbia, found solid rejection of the idea:
Some 61 per cent of people surveyed called the carbon tax "bad," while only 25 per cent said they approve of the impending tax.
That would seem a pretty convincing warning sign for Dion, but that number is inflated, when you consider the framing of the question:
At issue is the structure of the central poll question, which asks people to select a reason why they support or oppose the tax, as opposed to just having respondents answer yes or no.
For example, of the people who oppose the carbon tax, 33 per cent said they did so because carbon fuels are already heavily taxed. Another 26 per cent said they oppose the tax because they believe the federal and provincial governments should work together on a solution. And two per cent rejected the tax because they don't believe carbon fuels cause climate change.
"It looks to me like 51 per cent support the idea, with the variation being that there is a chunk that disagree on the timing," said Taylor.
"They think we should wait until everyone is doing it at the same time. I think we could read this in a way that says the ones that say 'out-and-out, no carbon tax,' are about 35 per cent."
Factor in the portion who rejected because they wanted both levels of government to work together, and you are left with 1/3 outright rejecting, the rest a function of circumstances. That actually jives with the Decima poll, 1/3 who didn't believe they should "pay more" to fight climate change.
Another factor to consider, if Dion's proposals don't include a further direct tax on gasoline, it will be somewhat different than the B.C. plan, the potential to be more popular.
Changing gears, one of the chief criticisms, the looming tax shift will unfairly target the "poor", putting them further behind, introducing a new burden. According to one economist, who studied the B.C. tax shift, the opposite is true:
Poorer families 'slightly ahead'
Marc Lee, senior economist with the CCPA, said Tuesday the budget seems to have done a reasonably good job of considering economic fairness.
On the face of it, he said, "It looks pretty good."
The budget promises to give back the revenues raised by its new carbon tax by giving tax breaks to businesses and individuals, as well as a one-time $100 payout to everyone in the province.
The plan "pretty much would equalize the situation for lower-income families, if not put them slightly ahead," Lee said. "If you were able to make some purchases that increase your energy efficiency, you could save money on balance."
"Slightly ahead" is a far cry from the fear mongering that any tax shift will be placed on the backs of the poor. At the very least, the above conclusions serve to counter these blanket criticisms.