Speaking truth to power (and industry and, yes, consumers)

The Harper government’s own Roundtable on the Environment and the Economy recommends a carbon tax  an “emission price signal”, a cap-and-trade system, or both, in its report released today in Ottawa.

Will the Greens remain the only party in Canada to support a carbon tax – and what it reasonably calls tax shifting?


The big three automakers national parties, politically beholden to the worst fears of automakers and/or their employees, choose not to lead Canada toward one of the most meaningful climate change solutions – even while Québec (and, on auto emissions standards, California) already begin to take such actions on their own.

Anyone who did more than space out during the 1970s will remember the oil embargo which plunged the world into gasoline shortages and, therefore, higher prices and drastic conservation measures.

Is there no imagination for adapting measures we took then, maybe even discourage driving?

We could, for those still necessarily married to their cars, combine better gas mileage (such as was attained in the ’70s) with lower carbon emissions we so desperately need nowadays and into the future.

We could make it more tax-advantageous for drivers to take along a passenger or two rather than have them continue to contribute to traffic gridlock – and all the inherent costs, environmental and otherwise – in urban and suburban parts of the country.

We could hope politicians would get their heads out of their short-term electoral asses and invest in longer-term solutions for “our children and grandchildren” they are so quick to invoke on other issues. Imagine if public transit – whether in big cities or small towns – was so reliable and affordable as to make the car almost redundant. As my mother correctly points out people in smaller towns must have cars to get around so long as there are no better options.  This would require levels of infrastructure investments not seen in decades but could employ millions of the same people who see nothing but trouble in the means to an end polls say so many of us would like to see. 

It would also necessarily take time and that’s something we cannot afford to waste.  Meanwhile it is time to significantly adjust our lives to new realities, with all necessary supports to make the burdens equitable. 

Imagine if saving our environment had the same sporting feel to it as saving a few bucks in a sale?
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3 thoughts on “Speaking truth to power (and industry and, yes, consumers)

  1. MJH

    We need to keep in mind that corporations and public utilities will not pay the carbon taxes as these added costs will be passed on to consumers just like property taxes and corporate income taxes. There is but one payer–YOU AND ME

    Kenn says: Thanks for the comment. In addition to the Green Party’s FAQ on the tax, which explains shifting as opposed to just tax raising I came across this (from a Republican!) in a very quick Google of ‘economy and carbon tax’. Hopefully there are, and will be, more and more reports of conscientious people and corporations willing to share the burdens if, at least, their public images might be helped. There is no reason why a green economy cannot flourish as we wrestle with this problem but it will take adjustments.

  2. Sorry Kenn, I can’t let this one slide. The NDP has supported carbon taxes now for several years. The major difference is that the NDP does not want to wholesale swap-out the income-based tax system with the tax.

    This over-simplistic analysis of a “shift” has even been reconsidered by the Green party itself with it’s ‘Vision Green’ booklet which “shifted” it’s policies away from income-tax cuts towards the elimination of corporate subsidies… something the NDP has encouraged also.

    My point is this brother. We’re dealing more and more bloggo-skirmishes, which have less and less to do with genuine disagreement. Often what devides us are partisan “gotcha”-isms and entusiastic, but ultimately corrosive posts. I respect your decision to change stripes, but I fear that it might have been done with hasty assumptions about what the Green party is and what the NDP isn’t.

    Ultimately, these ideas and policies have been around for some time and never seen the light of day because the political movements working on them have succumb to sectarianism and “start from scratch” syndrome… Green party included. Ultimately the problem is not whether these ideas exist, or are theoretically possible, but are politically soluble. I can tell you that with a divided left, they aren’t in the slightest.

    Kenn says: I know I slipped into partisan language, Ravi, just one of the things I was getting tired of when I decided to try quieter support of a different kind. That’s not helpful and I apologize. It isn’t just semantics over “carbon tax” where Greens and Dippers part company, I dare say, although it seems like a glaring difference, in terms of daring to speak its name, but my over-riding wish was to tap into an appetite for something new. I’d really like to rein in my campaign-style enthusiasm, as I had intended last month, and see the parties, all of them, work together – hell, talk together – more than they have been. There is much for the common good we can do.

  3. I think that partisan language is inevitable, and is nothing to worry about. The key thing is that in our circumstance, we know that partisanship, and even the “appetite for something new” (which I sympathize with) is disingenuous to the broader issue of a profoundly fragmented movement. We need more and more people to commit to the movement itself, which is counter to the motives of the Liberals and Conservatives, and engage in a dialog about unity.

    To be a partisan (bare with me :D) I don’t think this is possible under the Greens. Particularly with their on and off attachment to the Liberals. This is not necessarily possible with the ONDP as it stands today (partisan mode: off). However our solution to renew and reinvigorate the eco-socialist movement needs to orient itself beyond reinventing ourselves again and again. There is no silver bullet, there is one cure for the cold. But whatever the solution, it depends on the commitment of people such as ourselves to the movement itself.

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