The Conservative cap-and-trade plan: The same, but different, but still the same

The Prime Minister’s director of communications tries, in an exchange of tweets with Postmedia’s Michael Den Tandt, to explain the difference between the cap-and-trade system the NDP is proposing and the cap-and-trade system the Conservatives used to advocate for: specifically, why the Conservatives describe one as a “tax” when the other apparently wasn’t.

show me where we plan to raise 21.5 billion in revenue in our platform or Throne Speech

the NDP books 21.5 in gov’t revenue from plan. 2008 platform had no gov’t revenue associated with it. Not in 2011 platform or SFT

no revenue to gov’t. The NDP plan does – hence the tax

no, it’s a tax because the gov’t wld get the $. But, if you prefer, we’ll call it $ the NDP gov’t wld extract from Canadians.

At the risk of plagiarizing myself, I’ll again note that this argument about government revenue is irrelevant. At least so far as the Conservatives are concerned. As I 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 present opinion, anything that establishes a price on carbon is a carbon tax. By this logic, it simply does not matter whether that price results in public revenue or private revenue.

If the Conservatives ever previously publicly and categorically renounced the idea of deriving government revenue from a cap-and-trade system, I’ve yet to see evidence of it. (For whatever it’s worth, the American cap-and-trade legislation that Canada would have conceivably partnered with would have resulted in government revenue from the auctioning of permits.) But 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?

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