Gov Accountability

Canada should learn from Australia's failed carbon tax experiment

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Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced in October that the nation’s provinces must implement a carbon tax by 2018 or the federal government would do it instead. In the three months since then, the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, an Atlas Network partner based in Saskatchewan, has led the policy debate by arguing that a carbon tax would result in steep energy prices — “up to $2,569 per year for the average Canadian family by 2022” — all without making a substantive impact on global climate change.

“The government plans to unleash thousands of carbon cops across Canada,” writes Jordan Bateman, CTF’s British Columbia director. “Buried in a 209-page document of environmental red tape to be discussed by Trudeau and the provincial premiers this weekend are a dozen words that will cost taxpayers millions: ‘Compliance and enforcement will create thousands of new jobs across the country.’ That’s right — thousands of new government employees, paid by your tax dollars, policing carbon emissions and making sure people are installing double-glazed windows, driving less, and following the hundreds of other policies in the report. Or, if these new compliance jobs are forced on the private sector, it will mean higher consumer prices and housing costs. Pick your poison, Canadians: higher taxes or higher prices.”

CTF’s informational campaign draws on Australia’s experience with a carbon tax, which took effect in 2012 and was repealed only two years later. The Institute of Public Affairs (IPA), an Atlas Network partner based in Melbourne, led an extensive Repeal the Carbon Tax campaign that detailed the vast economic drawbacks of the tax while pointing out that it would also not achieve any environmental goals. IPA’s campaign was so successful that the organization was named one of six finalists for Atlas Network’s prestigious $100,000 2015 Templeton Freedom Award.

“Australians tried a carbon tax, it didn’t work, so they repealed it, and Canadians need to take a close look at that experience,” said CTF Federal Director Aaron Wudrick. “Many Canadians are about to feel the impact of a national carbon tax and it’s important to find out what to expect and hear it first-hand from a country that has tried it.”

Each nation produces a roughly comparable percentage of global greenhouse gas emissions, only 1.5 percent in Australia and 1.65 percent in Canada.

“Many Australians faced high energy bills and job losses as a result of our carbon tax,” said Chris Berg, an IPA senior fellow. “The government was forced to create heaps of new bureaucracy, rebates, free carbon credits and red tape just to deal with the fallout from the tax. And worst of all, it did virtually nothing to impact global climate change. Canadians should not follow us down this path.”

CTF has launched a billboard campaign in Calgary to spread awareness of carbon tax drawbacks, and created an online petition that allows carbon tax opponents to register their opposition to the costly and ineffective idea.