The following is one post in a series: “Reporting Back: Green Party of Canada Policy Conference, Halifax“
Andrew Van Iterson is a former Green Party candidate, and as such it’s not surprising that he built on what Amy had said by explaining how to sell the tax shift. If this is going to be successful, some key elements will be:
- Transparent revenue neutrality. ETS can’t be seen as a tax grab, and it needs to be very clear to everyone which taxes are going up and which ones are going down.
- Most Canadians should have no net increase in their tax burden.
- Promote the benefits and the long term advantages of ETS.
- ETS needs to be phased-in and predictable so that there’s less of a price shock. Advanced knowledge also contributes to long-term planning. (See the Income Trust announcement as an example of what not to do.)
- Account for regional (provincial) differences. Different taxes are going to hit different regions in different ways, and we need to be aware of and sensitive to that.
- Any exemptions to ETS must be conditional on performance achievements, investments or covenants. Don’t exempt the most polluting industries, as has sometimes happened in Europe.
Transparency is helped by ensuring that at least a portion of funds collected through environmental taxes are recycled back into prominent environmental programs so that the public can see clear benefits.
Van Iterson also emphasized the importance of ensuring that ETS (for example, a differentiated energy tax) does not hit the poor harder. He suggested rebate cheques (along the lines of existing GST rebates) and reduced income tax at lowest brackets. Businesses should be provided with R&D funding for developing technologies, reducing pollution and increasing efficiency. Recycled funds should be targeted to the hardest-hit sectors, based on production.
It should also be emphasized that research suggests that ETS does not hurt competitiveness. The biggest thing that’s needed now is political leadership and advanced research, so that ETS can be sold on a very practical, “how does it affect me” level.