The question of the weekend

Liberals are spending much of the day discussing the concept of “evidence-based policy”—this curious and revolutionary and courageous notion that the government’s actions and promises should acknowledge demonstrable reality. Munir Sheikh, the former chief statistician, addressed the convention this morning. Delegates have spent the rest of the day in sessions dedicated to discussing this novel approach in the context of various policy areas.

One of these sessions was to deal with the environment, which thus seemed like something of a test: could the Liberal party have a discussion about evidence-based environmental policy that didn’t deal with the preferred prescription of the vast majority of expert analysts?

The answer is: almost. But with a few minutes to spare in the hour a young man from the riding of Mount Royal stood and put the Liberal soul up for discussion.

“I have one question,” he said, proceeding to table it in rapid and insistent fashion. “Considering that most parts of Europe use a carbon tax and Australia is developing a carbon tax and so is China and so is India and so is many other parts of the world, and only Canada, with the exception of course of Quebec and British Columbia that have a carbon tax, and considering that many states and many countries that have a carbon tax have been able to grow economically even though they have it, does this not show merit for adopting a carbon tax?”

He added his concern that despite the issue being discussed, not a single person on the stage at the front of the room was using a reusable water bottle.

Seated on stage were environmental Steven Guilbeault, scientist Gordon McBean and two Liberal MPs, Joyce Murray and Kirsty Duncan. Another Liberal MP, Pablo Rodriguez, stood to moderate. It was Mr. McBean who offered a response.

“Let me just say that it is the opinion of almost every leading economist in the world dealing with the climate change issue and related issues that a carbon tax is by far the most economically and administratively efficient way of dealing with the issue,” he said. “We should have a carbon tax in Canada. In my view.”

There was applause for this. And then everyone moved on.

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