Carbon taxes having been getting much more attention in the Canadian press than they have in the United States. And familiarity with the concept of a carbon tax appears to produce support.
A Canadian Press Harris/Decima poll released last week revealed strong support for "a carbon tax levied on people and businesses based on the carbon emissions they generate," with 61% supporting such a tax and 32% opposed.
The poll showed even greater support for "an environmental tax refund paid to those who succeed in reducing their use of fossil fuels, electricity, water and the amount of garbage they produce," with 80% support and only 16% opposition.
According to Harris/Decima President Bruce Anderson, the basic concept of a carbon tax becomes more popular:
when the focus is on the broader aspects of our environmental footprint, not just carbon, when it is clear that the money raised would be used to incent environmental improvement, when the idea is that those who are taxed are those who aren’t trying, and when there is a signal that environmentally thoughtful behaviour will be rewarded." (Emphasis added.)
Rewarding the "thoughtful behavior" may explain the greater support offered for the "environmental tax refund" compared to the "carbon tax" poll question. Anderson concludes:
The central concept, of taxing particularly harmful behavior, and rewarding the opposite, is a potential political winner for the party that can get it right and describe it clearly. The tag "carbon tax" and the term "revenue neutral", from a political communications standpoint, are not ideal starting points, as communications go.
We agree with Anderson’s conclusion that "taxing particularly harmful behavior, and rewarding the opposite" — precisely what a revenue-neutral carbon tax is designed to do — is a potential political winner.
We intend to give more thought to his political communications point and whether there is a better way to frame the case for a revenue-neutral carbon tax. Ideas?
Photo: Flickr / champy1013
UPDATE – May 11 – The Canadian Press reported today on unsubstantiated rumors that the Liberal Party’s pollster has found far less favorable views about carbon tax when respondents were given details of British Columbia’s carbon tax plan. According to the rumors, "the poll found 30 per cent strongly opposed to the idea and 12 per cent somewhat opposed, compared to 23 per cent strongly supportive and 25 per cent somewhat supportive." Based upon Anderson’s conclusion above and assuming the rumored poll results are accurate, the Liberal Party pollster’s results might have been more favorable had he avoided use of the terms "carbon tax" and "revenue-neutral."
Powell Lucas says
Like the biofuels fiasco this is bad policy. It is a hastily conceived concept that will result in a massive bureaucratic boondoggle.
From the few details I have been able to ferret out it appears that the Liberal’s proposal would exempt transportation fuels. Depending of which of the myriad studies you read this is probably in the neighbourhood of 25% of total CO2 emmissions. (Some include rail transport, some include farm equipment, some include vehicles used within the boundaries of industrial sites such as heavy hauling equipment, tree harvesting equipment, etc.) We don’t even have an agreed upon baseline in this, the most important measurement as to the impact of each segment of society on the emmissions total.
The remaining 75% is taken up by industrial users burning coal or natural gas in processing plants, manufacturing facilities and power plants plus commercial enterprises and households. Industrial users, utilities and large commercial buildings will be able to pass these additional charges on to consumers either directly (witness the airlines fuel surcharges) or indirectly in increased pricing. That leaves the individual homeowner to bear the entire load.
Even ignoring the passing on of increased in costs by industrial, utility and commercial users the homeowner will be hit by a massive escalation in home heating costs. How will that be spread fairly among the populace? It is a lot more costly to heat a home in Whitehorse or Churchill than it is in Windsor or Toronto. Do people who rely on air conditioning in cities like Toronto or Montreal have a different baseline than those in Edmonton or Saskatoon where it is seldom needed? The bureaucracy that would be required to regulate and manage this type of system would make the bloated health care regulator’s and paper shuffler’s costs pale in comparison.
The principal drawback to this hastily feel-good program, however, lies with the politicians. The claim is that it will be revenue neutral. For how long? I’ve never seen a politician who didn’t love to spend my money and I’ll bet the farm that the only time this deal will remain revenue neutral is at its inception. Thereafter…watch out! These jerks in Ottawa will simply have a new cash cow. Don’t forget that the EI program is only supposed to run a limited surplus with any revenue surplus being returned in the form of lower rates. We’ve all seen how that one works. The income tax was supposed to be a temporary wartime measure. Its been a very long war!
This is a bad idea.
wade kerner says
This poll is a joke, people are already screaming about the price of gasoline, and you’re telling me 61% support an increase?
If we get rid of the carbon will that kill the trees? Don’t trees need carbon? And if we kill the trees won’t that get rid of the oxygen? and if that goes, won’t we all die?
Correct you are George. At least one person understands how much of a scam this is. Also, everything in nature needs Co2 and when there is more of it the vegetation flourishes, Co2 is needed in plant photosynthesis and when plants die they release all of the Co2 back into the atmosphere. It is a natural element essential to life on this planet. To tax it or limit it is to limit life. This isn’t about the environment, this is about revenue and regulation by bureaucracy.