Resisting the pull of cynicism since 1969.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Ignorant IP, Waterloo blogstravaganza, and Fair Vote Canada

I'm back! Did you miss me? It'll probably take me at least a week to get back into regular blogging, but here are a few things I wanted to mention right away.

Living under a rock update: I've been almost completely away from the internet for about a month, so I'm afraid I'm going to have to rely on you people to catch me up. What's this about Maxime Bernier resigning? Is it really true that Ian Brodie is gone, too? And is the NDP really opposing a carbon tax now, or is that just the Liberal spin? Recommend some must-read blog posts and news articles to me, okay, because man, things really never are boring 'round these parts. Even with election speculation off the table.

2008 Waterloo Blogstravaganza: I'll be in Waterloo again for work for most of the month of June, and so it's time again for our yearly Waterloo-area Blogstravaganza, this time on Saturday, June 14th. It'll be held, as it was last year and the year before, at the Huether Hotel--although out of deference to some bloggingfolk who need to work during the day on a Saturday, we're doing drinks-and-dinner this year instead of an afternoon event. This means that we'll start at 5:30 and go until we feel like quitting, but don't worry, in addition to being a great little microbrewery in the heart of Waterloo's "uptown" (with truly fine beer), the Huether also offers perfectly decent pub food, so no one will starve. All are welcome to join us: bloggers and blog readers alike, of all political stripes. Oh, and feel free to advertise this on your own blog as well; the more, the merrier.

FVC National Council election results: Just before I dropped off the face of the earth, I mentioned that I was running for Fair Vote Canada National Council. The competition was incredibly stiff, but I am pleased and honoured to announce that I was elected to a three-year term. I am sad that I won't be serving alongside my fellow blogger Mark Greenan, who has done far more to advance the cause in the online world than I have, but I will do my best to be the political blogosphere's voice at FVC. Thank you!

10 comments:

Greg said...

Congrats on the FVC gig! See you in a couple of weeks.

Anonymous said...

But it does seem that the NDP is playing the obnoxious demogogue on the carbon tax. Layton's argument makes no sense! And if he, Dion and the Block actually cooperated on this matter, it might actually come into law.

That it is not quite as nice as cap and trade, in his view, doesn't mean that it isn't much much bettr than doing nothing.

Arggghhhh. I sometimes regret my vote.

Adam

L-girl said...

Welcome back!

L-girl said...

And congratulations! They're lucky to have you.

bza said...

Here's one NDP critique of the carbon tax: http://www.ndp.ca/page/6440.

I think, in a nutshell, the concern is that fuel taxes are often regressive flat taxes where everyone pays the same. As opposed to income taxes, where we have different tax brackets depending on income.

If we modelled the carbon tax after fuel taxes, that would then result in a massive tax increase for lower income people, and a massive tax cut for people with higher incomes.

I don't think Dion has specifically come out with a plan, only the need for one. But, this is a very important concern to reconcil, that environmentalists may have been missing in their suprise that the NDP wouldn't embrace a carbon tax immediately.

Deanna said...

Congrats, IP! :-)

Re: Carbon tax

I was pleased to see the NDP declaring concerns. I have concerns myself - I have big problems with revenue neutral carbon taxes if none of the money raised is being put into green initiatives - either research or green alternatives for Canadians. Carbon taxes alone, without alternatives for people to choose, are not going to help. They're just going to penalize the poor.

If the carbon taxes AREN'T revenue neutral (so that other taxes aren't dropped so that funding doesn't get cut for gov't services) and with the carbon tax monies going into green initiatives and alternatives is something that I can support. But that's not what is being proposed.

Idealistic Pragmatist said...

Greg,

Excellent! I'm glad you're coming.

Adam,

What do you say to Deanna's arguments below?

L-girl,

Thanks! I'll see you in just a few days now.

bza,

Thanks for the link (and keep them coming! I really was serious when I said I'd been living under a rock and am flailing around, trying to catch up.).

I wish I had a better sense of whether the NDP is opposed to this carbon tax (which I can understand...and maybe even agree with, we'll see once I've read more about the details), or any carbon tax (which would be, to say the least, very disconcerting to me). What do you think about the NDP plan?

Deanna,

Thanks for the congrats! I'm very pleased.

And you have some very good points about the problem with carbon taxes. They do rely on the market to find alternative solutions for poor consumers, with no proof that it would actually work that way.

catherine said...

Deanna, I have a question about the point you make.

Here is one description of a revenue neutral carbon tax (from CanWest):

That plan, proposed by economist Jack Mintz and Nancy Olewiler of the Sustainable Prosperity Institute, would leave the existing excise tax of 10 cents per litre of gasoline and four cents per litre of diesel unchanged. The authors estimate that applying the excise tax to other fuels would increase tax revenue by between $12 billion and $15 billion annually. The revenue could be used to substantially lower personal and business taxes and to fund tax credits related to climate change technologies.

Mintz and Olewiler said "there should be no net increase in taxes associated with this proposal."


So in a revenue neutral scheme, some tax credits can be used for green initiatives (by individuals or industries) and others to offset the increased cost of fuel (which could be aimed at low-income).

By contrast, the NDP is stating that they will put all the revenue collected from their cap and trade into "green technology" (which I believe means new technologies, retrofits, retraining for green jobs, etc).

Doesn't the NDP also have to use some of the revenue to offset the increased price of fuel to low-income Canadians? I don't understand how "green technology" funding will help someone paying rent to a landlord who doesn't retrofit and passes the increasing fuel costs on to his/her tenants -- just to give one example.

Deanna said...

Catherine, I absolutely agree that there are issues with the NDP proposal as well. My posted concerns were specifically regarding revenue neutral carbon taxes. I'm personally not against carbon taxes per se, but as I live in BC, I see how our provincial government is doing carbon taxes, and it is a rip-off all the way around. It's worse than the concerns I posted above - they are also giving tax breaks to the oil and gas industry. That's right - they're taxing fuel/energy consumers MORE, but giving breaks to fuel/energy producers. On top of no money for green initiatives. So I fear a similiar program writ large on the federal scene.

catherine said...

It seems strange that BC would add any net handouts to oil and gas under a carbon tax plan. Is it to soften the tax hit to these industries? Sweden exempted many of their industries from the carbon tax because their economy was struggling. In the end, they both reduced emissions and boosted the economy.

I found this report of the BC tax useful.

The BC tax appears to be a modest start, but it is a start and sets the stage for future improvements in carbon pricing. Sweden has made changes to their carbon tax several times already and now also participates in the EU cap and trade (which Sweden finds too modest and so set higher goals for itself than required by EU or by Kyoto.) I wonder how the BC carbon tax compares to Quebec's. Quebec is now adding a cap and trade as well.

There is no question that carbon pricing is regressive (whether it is a tax or cap and trade). By openly acknowledging that, it sets the stage to require carbon pricing schemes to address this inequity. BC made an attempt, both in giving out a flat amount per person up front (since fuel costs increase on average with income but the fraction of income spent on them decreases) and by targetting the additional tax credits and cuts to low-income residents. Estimates I've seen show low-income BCers coming out ahead. However, one has to be careful with estimates, particularly anything that involves additional costs for industry as the effect on the consumer is often underestimated.

Certainly, one should push BC to do better, but I think it is good that parts of Canada are starting to implement carbon pricing.