Excerpt from a speech by Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo MP Cathy McLeod in the House of Commons on Tuesday, May 7, 2019.
WE OFTEN HEAR members in the House hold up British Columba’s carbon tax as this great example of something that has been in place for a number of years. However, they do not tell the whole story.
A part of the story is missing.
British Columbia introduced a carbon tax, and at that time I reluctantly decided to watch and see how things would go with this particular carbon tax. I have a few things to say about it. First, it certainly did not do exactly what the government said it would do, in terms of reducing the emissions.
However, the government did say that it was going to make the tax revenue-neutral. There was a small decrease in rural property taxes. There was some money that flowed back to the citizens. There was a process to audit that money and how it was returned to the citizens to prove that revenue neutrality was maintained.
This went on for a few years. When the NDP government was elected, the first thing it did was to take the revenue neutrality away from the carbon tax. All of a sudden, it became a tax grab for the province. There was no more offsetting in terms of money in, money out. It became a tax grab, pure and simple. The government was going to spend it wherever it wanted.
That is a cautionary tale for Canadians. In Ontario, Alberta and the other provinces, right now people are being told by the government that this is a great deal and that they will get more money back than they spend. Canadians should remember the example of British Columbia that the government holds up so often as the way to do things.
What is going to stop the Liberal government when it starts to realize that its spending is so out of control that it cannot afford to send out those cheques for carbon tax rebates
Quickly, the citizens of this country will have been hoodwinked into another tax grab by the Liberal government, because there is nothing that compels the government to keep it the way it is right now. That is a lesson from B.C., that it will take nothing for the government to change
what it is doing.
On top of that lesson, in my opinion British Columbia has the worst kind of carbon tax, in terms of its not providing offsets. What British Columbians also have right now are some of the highest taxes in the country, in terms of the highest gas prices in the country. This is what the provincial NDP government says it wants. It wants gas prices high, and it wants people to
change their behaviour. The Prime Minister said that this is what a carbon tax is for: to raise the prices so people change their behaviour.
I want to give a couple of examples of people who are having to change their behaviour, but perhaps not in the way the Prime Minister anticipated.
Someone I know fairly well was laid off from her job a number of years ago. She took her severance money and took a big risk. She put her severance money into starting up a small business. It was enough to keep her going, to pay her bills, to have some success in running her own show.
A few months ago, she was diagnosed with cancer and was going to need treatment. When small business operators have cancer, they are suddenly not bringing in any money. In Kamloops, when people need cancer treatment, they have to go to Kelowna. Not only does she not qualify for employment insurance and has meagre savings, but she has to travel back and forth to Kelowna to deal with radiation therapy. That is a two-hour drive every time, and she has had to do this for weeks and weeks.
Every time she goes, she fills up her gas tank and wonders how she is going to deal with this, as it is costing her more and more. Maybe she will find some program someday that will reimburse her for those costs. In the meantime, she is struggling every minute, every day, to simply fill up her gas tank to drive a couple of hours to Kelowna to get the radiation treatment for her cancer. Can my colleagues imagine the stress that this adds to her life?
During this time, when she was dealing with record sky-high prices for filling up her tank, she noticed something about the Prime Minister. No one begrudges holidays for the Prime Minister, but when she saw him fly from Ottawa to Tofino and back to have a holiday, she said, “He is trying to change my behaviour. I don’t see him trying to change his own behaviour for
I just had to tell members how that made her feel, when she could barely afford to put gas in her tank, that the Prime Minister wants her to change her behaviour but he is not doing a thing in terms of his carbon emissions.
I have another example. In rural Clearwater, there was a shutdown of the mill for six weeks over the Christmas period, and another shutdown has just been announced. It is going to be only for a week, maybe two weeks, but there are continually shutdowns.
What happens when a mill shuts down is that the employees do not get paid for six weeks. They might get a bit of EI, but they do not get their pay for one week. They live in a rural community and lots of them need trucks to do their jobs. They are going into the bush.
As they see gas prices hitting $1.60, $1.65, $1.70, they are saying, “Oh my goodness, I am not going to be getting a paycheque for next week. The mill is closed down. There is no money coming in.”
How does that change their behaviour? They are having to make decisions in terms of not being able to buy meat for their families and having to use rice and do other things, simply to fill their trucks with gas. They do not have choices as people do in Vancouver, where they can make decisions around public transit. They are people who have to live with the carbon tax creating increased challenges in their lives.
I think colleagues can see that the carbon tax is creating huge challenges, especially at the gas pump. Certainly, a small measure of help would be for us to look at whom it is really hurting and how it is hurting them.