Yesterday, the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy (NRTEE) released a report that says we must start paying a price for carbon emissions, and that a carbon tax in conjunction with a cap and trade system for big polluters is the best plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions without harming the economy. The NRTEE now joins “a chorus of the countryâ€™s top economists and major banking institutions who say the only way to alter Canadaâ€™s emissions is to change market behaviour with a tax.” Environmental organizations were also unanimous in their praise of the report’s recommendations. Predictably, however, John Baird rejected the recommendation (childishly, too), even though it was his own government that created the panel, selected its membership, and tasked them with creating the report in the first place.
And yet, you’d think that with environmentalists, the banks, economists, and others on board, there would be at least one opposition party that was able to creditably take the government to task for so quickly throwing out this report, right? Unfortunately, for reasons I’m not quite able to grasp, not a single party in the House of Commons had the (wisdom? courage? political foresight?) to call for what is increasingly acknowledged as necessary and urgent.
Only the Green Party supports a carbon tax, which we would use to reduce taxes on income and investment. It’s incorporated in our detailed climate plan released last summer, and has been a core policy position for longer than I’ve been involved. Like so much of our vision for Canada, it is an idea whose time has come.
It’s reasons like this (not to mention this) that not only must Elizabeth May be in the leaders’ debate during the next general election, but we need Green MPs in Parliament as soon as possible. According to a poll released two days ago, most Canadians agree, and would like to see a Parliament with 25 Green MPs. (Not surprising, since under a fair voting system that’s around what our current level of support would produce.)
The Toronto Centre by-election represents an opportunity to realize that desire. A strong finish will (hopefully) scare the other parties into smartening up. A win would be historic, and break the old-line monopoly in Ottawa. It would mean ideas whose time has come would finally be taken seriously and begin to be implemented. And it wouldn’t be a moment too soon.