Joe Oliver tries to explain the farce

On Monday, Vancouver Sun columnist Craig McInnes criticized that the the Harper government’s “carbon tax” attacks on the NDP. Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver has now responded in a letter to the editor.

I am disappointed your columnist Craig McInnes has fallen for NDP leader Thomas Mulcair’s carbon tax boondoggle.

Novel opening gambit.

His plan would raise more than $20 billion in tax revenues from carbon – so it is not inaccurate to label it a carbon tax.

“Not inaccurate” is an interesting turn of phrase. But as we have explained at various points, the reference to revenue is, by the government’s own logic, a red herring. The Conservatives have said that, in their current view, anything that establishes a price on carbon is equivalent to a carbon tax. Therefore, it simply doesn’t matter whether that price results in public revenue or private revenue.

That said, if you want to play along with the idea of government revenue as an important distinction, consider that when John Baird was championing his government intention’s to establish a price on carbon in 2008, he said that industries would pay into a “technology fund.” Here are the details of that proposed fund. Does that count as government revenue?

President Obama recently joined Prime Minister Harper in opposition to a cap and trade system, which Mr. Mulcair supports.

Not quite. President Obama’s press secretary ruled out the possibility of the White House proposing a “carbon tax.” But the President previously proposed a cap-and-trade system. His press secretary’s phrasing—”would”—leaves open the question of whether the President sees a distinction between a carbon tax and cap-and-trade or if, as the Harper government is now trying to argue, Mr. Obama believes the two options are equivalent.

Eminent economists like Jack Mintz say the NDP plan could raise gas prices by 10 cents a litre.

There was some debate during the last election campaign over the precise impact on gas prices, but it’s interesting to see Mr. Oliver defer to the expertise of Mr. Mintz. The eminent economist thinks a carbon tax is the best approach to reducing GHG emissions.

Canada’s trucking industry also came out against a carbon tax because it would raise prices on the goods they transport. Mulcair’s NDP’s carbon tax will raise the price of everything, including gas at the pump, groceries at the checkout counter and electricity in your home. We simply can’t afford Mulcair’s NDP.

The regulations Peter Kent announced earlier this week will raise the price of cars. The government’s regulations for the coal-fired electricity sector will raise the price of electricity. And the Conservatives still have to announce their regulations for the oil and gas sector.

By the way, I remain happy—eager, even—to sit down with Mr. Oliver or Mr. Kent to discuss all this at the earliest opportunity.

(For whatever it matters: Craig’s column referred to my writing on the subject, but I don’t believe Craig and I have ever met, spoken or otherwise interacted. If we have crossed paths at some point in the past—and I’m simply forgetting that—I can categorically say that we didn’t speak or interact in regards to his column before it was published.)

See previously: Peter Kent tries to explain the farce

Looking for more?

Get the Best of Maclean's sent straight to your inbox. Sign up for news, commentary and analysis.