Carbon credit where credit is due

Grant Brown
March 16, 2018
It is said that some Ontarians have been driven mad by their power bills. Mad enough to finally trade in their Liberal government for a Ford-led Conservative party that has forsaken a carbon tax? We’ll see in June, but in the meantime Grant Brown has a modest proposal for all Canadians who want to save the planet without paying carbon taxes. Almost Trumpian in its genius, Brown’s plan is to levy huge import tariffs on Chinese goods manufactured with coal power, especially wind turbines and solar panels. That would lower Canadian taxes, increase exports of our clean green natural gas, boost the competitiveness of our manufacturers, massively lower global greenhouse gas emissions, and defeat carbon-taxing governments. This would be a win, win, win, win, and, for Ontarians, no Wynne!

Carbon credit where credit is due

Grant Brown
March 16, 2018
It is said that some Ontarians have been driven mad by their power bills. Mad enough to finally trade in their Liberal government for a Ford-led Conservative party that has forsaken a carbon tax? We’ll see in June, but in the meantime Grant Brown has a modest proposal for all Canadians who want to save the planet without paying carbon taxes. Almost Trumpian in its genius, Brown’s plan is to levy huge import tariffs on Chinese goods manufactured with coal power, especially wind turbines and solar panels. That would lower Canadian taxes, increase exports of our clean green natural gas, boost the competitiveness of our manufacturers, massively lower global greenhouse gas emissions, and defeat carbon-taxing governments. This would be a win, win, win, win, and, for Ontarians, no Wynne!
Share on facebook
Share on Facebook
Share on twitter
Share on Twitter

The gong show that ousted frisky bachelor Patrick Brown from the leadership of the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party and replaced him with the big lug the New York Times hailed as “the brother of Rob Ford” produced one unifying result: all four candidates who ran to replace Brown renounced his commitment to a carbon tax. This is big news, as unexpected as Justin Trudeau appointing an all-male cabinet.

Initially the media, gorging on their #MeToo twitter feed, hardly noticed the decarbonization of the PC platform. Now, awakened to the possible election of a climate-heretical Ontario government in June, they are energetically assisting the Liberals and NDP in warning voters off the Tories. Their attacks mainly target two themes: first, Ottawa will impose a carbon tax on the province no matter who is running Queen’s Park. And second, how can the PCs balance the budget without the $4 billion Brown said they would get from a carbon tax?

If this is the best the Toriphobes have got, Ontario will soon have a Ford at the wheel, and he won’t be driving a hybrid. His message will be simple: if the federal Liberals want a carbon tax, they should wear it. Let them design, implement, collect, and justify it to millions of Ontario voters who are among the highest-taxed people on earth.

Besides, the Tories have nothing to lose except the blame for a carbon tax because the federal Liberals have promised to return all the revenue to the province. True, a Liberal promise is not something to bank on. But if they renege the PCs can blame them for the deficit too.

Within a couple years it is possible that five provinces (Ontario, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Nova Scotia) will have governments opposed to a carbon tax. Manitoba’s current Conservative regime is a lukewarm supporter, at best. The United States won’t have a comprehensive national carbon tax. Nor will Russia, India, China, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran, and many other major carbon producing and emitting countries. So by the time the next federal election rolls around in October 2019, the anti-carbon tax Conservative Party may be riding a wave of #NotMeToo that could sink the ruling Liberals.

Does this mean we’re hell-bent for Gaiacide? Beats me. Unlike most Canadians, who apparently fancy themselves as climatological experts, I don’t know whether anthropogenic climate change is real, or whether its more of benefit than a menace to life on earth. But I do know that Canada is such a tiny emitter, there’s nothing we can do to change the climate for better or worse.

So here, with apologies to the great Jonathan Swift, is my modest proposal for an alternative approach to expiating our sins of emission: simply impose an import tariff on manufactured goods from China, and call it a “carbon tax.” The ineluctable logic of this unassailable solution is as follows:

Manufacturing in China relies overwhelmingly on energy from coal power plants – the cheapest but most carbon-intensive source of energy there is. Thus when Canada imports inexpensive manufactured goods from China, we are also, in effect, importing emissions from those coal plants. Adding a large carbon tariff to the cost of manufactured goods from China would encourage that country to convert to lower-emission energy sources, including natural gas power plants. The gas, at least some of it, could come from Canada’s prolific fields. Surely not even the greenest Canadian eco-activist or indigenous extortionist would stand in the way of new pipelines and LNG terminals if they understood the virtuous result would be to reduce China’s dependency on coal power and lower global emissions.

The modest carbon taxes we currently pay, which are slated to rise to genuinely painful levels, have the perverse effect of actually increasing global emissions, because they reduce demand for Canada’s relatively low carbon content products and increase demand for China’s high carbon products. If climate change is a global problem, why on earth do our governments discourage domestic natural gas production and export with taxes and regulation, when this has the effect of incenting China to burn more coal?

Our federal Liberal government may be incapable of processing this inconvenient truth. Prime Minister Trudeau famously admires China’s “basic dictatorship” because he imagines it enables the country to “turn on a dime” and totally greenify its economy. He knows this because somebody (probably Gerald Butts) told him that nearly all of our wind and solar technologies are manufactured in China. So he would resist an import tariff on those products, even though they’re mainly produced by filthy coal power, because it would raise the cost of turbines and panels, and the green energy they produce. That might tip long-suffering Ontarians over the edge from energy price poverty to energy price revolt, which would be problematic for the federal and provincial Liberals. Better to just carry on raising global emissions by taxing carbon in Canada but not in China.

But Chinese cities like Baoding, which is a centre for the manufacture of “green” energy products, are among the most polluted on the planet. The wind turbines and solar panels gleam and sparkle as they roll off the assembly lines, but you can’t appreciate their beauty from any distance because a fog of toxic ground-level pollution and greenhouse gases belches out of the coal power plants that ring the city. Once upon a time Canadian governments discounted the deaths of Chinese labourers who died building our transcontinental railway. Today they have just as little regard for smog-ravaged lungs of the poor Chinese who are building our green energy technologies.

It ain’t easy being green, as Kermit the Frog knew all too well. It’s much easier to pretend to be green, as our carbon-taxing political leaders know all too well. But such virtue-signalling is, as they say, unsustainable. Eventually voters will see through it, and recognize that Canadian climate change policy is having precisely the opposite of its pretended effects.

In the meantime, I’m going to offer this great idea to someone who doesn’t care much about carbon emissions, but has a real problem with cheap Chinese imports. If he takes me up on it, he could become the Leader of the Carbon-Free World.

Love C2C Journal? Here's how you can help us grow.

More for you

Future of Conservatism Series, Part V: Could Canada Handle a Trumpian Populist?

Democratic politics must continue even in times of war. Despite suspension of the federal Conservative leadership race amidst the coronavirus, members and supporters still need to think about how to shape their party and pick the right leader to best meet the many challenges of our era. C2C Journal has looked at revived Red Toryism, at uncompromisingly principled conservatism and at the decidedly compromised but successful Harper way. We have sought insight from abroad. And now we turn to populism. Barry Cooper applies his usual fearless thinking and cheerful bluntness to evaluate whether the Canadian political landscape has become hospitable terrain to a Canadian Trump.

Want More Affordable Housing in Canada? Build More Houses

Solving Canada’s housing crisis shouldn’t require more than a single lesson in economics. When prices are high, a free market always responds and supplies more. Yet amidst Canada’s severe problems of housing affordability, this foolproof mechanism is continually frustrated by governments that are either ignorant of how markets work, fixated on preserving the status quo or display naked contempt for the profit motive. Peter Shawn Taylor looks at the scorn heaped on land developers, landlords and the rest of the housing supply industry and wonders how they became the villains of this story.

Thinking Clearly in a Time of Panic

How should the conservative mind respond to the coronavirus pandemic? Panic and despair are in ample supply, and the urge to succumb appears widespread. Others have steered, via deliberate ignorance, to fatalism, though the walls are closing in on such rebels. Both extremes are beneath thoughtful conservatives. C2C Editor-in-Chief George Koch counsels that however dark today might appear, the eternal search for objective truth – the foundation for all conservative thought – is the first necessary step along the path to seeing humankind through to brighter days.

Future of Conservatism Series Part IV: Rallying the World’s Centre-Right Parties

As Canada’s Conservatives evaluate leadership hopefuls and ponder what their party is about and which path might lead to electoral victory, it’s easy to ignore international politics. They should take a look, for the world holds dozens of established centre-right democratic parties, and many are tackling challenges of relevance and adaptation at least as steep as those burdening Canada’s Conservatives. John Weissenberger travelled to Washington, D.C. for the annual conference of the International Democrat Union (IDU) and provides his assessment in this essay. Later this year, once international travel is restored, Weissenberger heads to Vienna to deepen his understanding at the IDU’s 2020 Forum.

Averting “Climate Poverty” for Canada’s Middle Class

Pursuing grandiose visions tends to cloud judgment, and when the vision is saving our very planet from an apprehended climate crisis, it’s little surprise that numbers are fudged, logic is twisted, the hardest-hit are ignored and entire social classes are cast into the trash. Matthew Lau, however, refuses to be dazzled by dreams. In this article, Lau remains rooted in reality and fixed on crunching the numbers to come up with some arresting conclusions about the huge costs of government climate policies to working people here and now, set against marginal if not ephemeral benefits to come over the next 80 years.

Hit the Bench: Beverley McLachlin’s Reputation Takes a Dive in Retirement

When Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada Beverley McLachlin stepped down in 2017, she was regarded as one of the most consequential jurists in Canadian history, largely due to her court’s activist approach to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Her career arc was also widely considered a triumph of progressive feminism in the face of an entrenched legal patriarchy. That reputation is due for a re-assessment. Grant A. Brown sifts through the evidence of McLachlin’s autobiography and various post-retirement missteps, and unearths what he feels is a surprising lack of principle, objectivity and sound reasoning.

Share This Story

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on print

Donate

Subscribe to the C2C Weekly
It's Free!

By clicking SUBSCRIBE, you agree to receive emails from C2C Journal. You can unsubscribe at any time.