About that revenue

As we’ve explained before, any reference the Harper government makes to “revenue” when trying to criticize the NDP’s cap-and-trade proposal is a red herring. By the Harper government’s own logic, it simply doesn’t matter whether cap-and-trade results in public or private revenue. According to the Conservatives, anything that establishes a price on carbon—as any kind of cap-and-trade system would—is a carbon tax.

With that said—and setting aside the fact that the Harper government still hasn’t substantiated that the cap-and-trade it advocated for and pursued wouldn’t have resulted in government revenue—here is a fun fact to add to the file.

The regulations that the Conservatives are using to deal with greenhouse gas emissions come with penalties for those who violate them.

Subject to the coming into force of section 72 of the Environmental Enforcement Act, chapter 14, under CEPA 1999, every person who commits an offence is liable, (a) on conviction on indictment, to a fine of not more than $1,000,000 or to imprisonment for a term of not more than three years, or to both; and (b) on summary conviction, to a fine of not more than $300,000 or to imprisonment for a term of not more than six months, or to both.

Where does the money from those fines go? Here is what the Canadian Environmental Protection Act says.

Subject to regulations made under section 278, all fines received by the Receiver General in respect of the commission of an offence under this Act, other than fines collected under the Contraventions Act, are to be credited to the Environmental Damages Fund, an account in the accounts of Canada, and used for purposes related to protecting, conserving or restoring the environment or for administering that Fund.

The court imposing the fine may recommend to the Minister that all or a portion of the fine credited to the Environmental Damages Fund be paid to a person or an organization specified by the court for a purpose referred to in subsection (1).

So fines are received by the Receiver General, which is responsible for accepting payments to the Government of Canada, and then credited to the Environmental Damages Fund. What’s the Environmental Damages Fund?

The EDF is a specified purpose account, administered by Environment Canada, to provide a mechanism for directing funds received as a result of fines, court orders, and voluntary payments to priority projects that will benefit our natural environment.

So fines become government funds which the government can then direct to priority projects.

I asked the Environment Minister’s office about this. Here is the explanation.

The court orders the fine. The fines are paid at the courthouse, to the Receiver General, to be remitted to the Environmental Damages Fund. As previously noted, [the Canadian Environmental Protection Act] exists to ensure compliance with environmental regulations, not to generate revenues. The NDP’s 2011 election platform planned to raise over $21 billion in tax revenue from their carbon scheme. Our government’s objective is to reduce Greenhouse Gas emissions, not derive revenue from carbon consumption. We fully expects that all those affected by the regulations to comply with the regulations, and therefore do not predict any revenues from this source.

So at least so long as no one ever violates the Harper government’s regulations, the government will not derive any revenue.

Here is a list of projects the EDF has funded in the past. According to this page, there is a little under $39,000 in the fund presently.