When I wrote yesterday about (among other things) the need for higher gas prices, I actually had no idea that Elizabeth May was simultaneously holding a press-conference to announce the Green Party Climate Plan: A New Energy Revolution to Avert Global Catastrophe (PDF). But wow, talk about consistency of message. The plan proposes a $50 carbon tax, which would affect gas prices by about twelve cents.
I’m very proud to be associated with this bold plan (which isn’t just about gas prices, but is very detailed), and overall I’m pleased with the reaction to it as well. (Heck, even the Toronto Sun’s Lorrie Goldstein said we have to “give…Elizabeth May credit” for being the only party leader willing to “actually [state] the painfully obvious.”) It’s telling that the biggest criticism being voiced so far is not about if this is a good plan or not, but instead if it’s a good or bad way to get votes. I talked a lot about that yesterday as well, but Elizabeth also responded to that concern in an online globeandmail.com discussion this afternoon (in fact, it was the first question):
The Green Party sees its role as advancing the right solutions â€” even if they are not immediately politically popular.
When all the other parties pander toward what they believe Canadians want, it’s no wonder that so many citizens demand leadership. Leadership is taking stands and advancing solutions that really make sense, before they become ‘flavour of the month.’
The second question, predictably, was from someone who was supportive of the plan, but wanted to make sure the revenue from the carbon tax would be used to reduce other taxes. Yes, Elizabeth explained, it would. This is not actually a tax increase, as some would have you believe. It is, instead, a tax shift, which would result in lower income and payroll taxes.
The third question, like clockwork, questions the plan’s effect on the economy. Elizabeth responds:
I have found that corporate Canada is innovative and able to adjust to a changing business climate once the signals are clear and the rules of the game are clear.
On the climate issue, this has not been the case. Previous and current ministers talk one line to gain votes, leave industry confused and then back off real action, often with the result of punishing the leaders and rewarding the laggards.
On the acid rain issue, 20 years ago, the government made the rules of the game clear. Sulphur dioxide emissions had to be reduced by 50 per cent on a set time table. Industry protested, but then got down to the business of business.
Companies like Inco actually increased profits once they realized that tantrums and threats were not persuasive in moving the government from its goals. The necessity of meeting the emission reduction goals drove new technologies. Inco captured the sulphur in the smokestack and sold the captured sulphur, improving their bottom line.
Putting a cost on carbon will have the same effect on business today. Some of the most successful corporations in the world have already proven that reducing emissions increases profits. IBM, Dupont, Alcan â€” to name a few â€” have all more than met Kyoto targets while saving millions. Many global corporations are very accustomed to carbon taxes.
The four most competitive and productive economies in the European Union all have carbon tax regimes.
Most unique about the whole thing was Elizabeth’s plea to Stephen Harper and all other parties (the Green Party of Canada is currently the only federal party advocating for a carbon tax) to “please steal these ideas.” Conventional wisdom says parties shouldn’t release major plans outside of an election period, because then other parties will steal them and get the credit. What Elizabeth is actually indicating, then, is that we don’t care about the credit, we just want to make sure the job gets done. Good on her.