Memramcook-Tantramar MLA Megan Mitton says she wishes New Brunswick’s Conservative government would stop wasting taxpayers’ money going to court to fight federal carbon taxes and take action instead to avert the worst effects of climate change.
During a panel discussion Monday evening at Sackville’s Vogue Cinema, Mitton said the burden of proof against carbon taxes should rest with those who oppose them.
“This [putting a price on carbon] is proven to be one of the things we can do,” she said. “This is one of the most efficient ways to get our emissions down.”
Mitton also wondered why opponents of carbon taxes aren’t proposing an alternative.
“If there’s a better way forward, I’m all for it,” she said. “I’m not seeing a better plan. I’m not seeing an alternative.”
Politics and economics
Mitton made her comments during one of a series of events organized by the local group, EOS Eco-Energy, to mark climate change week.
Mount Allison Geography and Environment Professor Brad Walters, who was the other participant on the panel, said the fight over carbon taxes is primarily political, not economic.
“The idea of carbon taxes emerged predominantly out of mainstream economics and [they] were actively supported by conservative politicians more so than those on the left,” Walters said.
“Over time, the strange irony, if you want to call it that, particularly in North America, is that as conservatives have abandoned any commitment at all to appropriate climate policy, the centre and left have moved over and embraced carbon taxes as one of the instruments that’s key to moving the economy away from fossil fuel dependence,” he added.
“Carbon taxes are administratively simple to implement,” Walters said. “They are economically efficient, there’s virtually unanimous consensus among economists that carbon taxes are probably the most efficient policy instrument available to facilitate this transition away from fossil fuels to alternatives.”
Both Mitton and Walters agreed the federal carbon tax that will take effect on April 1, will actually benefit most New Brunswickers because they will get more money back in rebates than they will pay in taxes.
The federal government estimates, for example, that a New Brunswick family of four will pay an average of $207 this year, much of it through an extra 4.42 cent-a-litre tax on gasoline, while receiving a rebate of $256 in 2019. (See CBC report: How the carbon tax will affect you in 2019.)
Mitton and Walters suggested, however, that because consumers pay the tax upfront and receive the rebate later, they have an immediate incentive to cut down on burning the fossil fuels that emit greenhouse gases contributing to climate change.
Mitton argued that implementing a price on carbon to reduce emissions will be cheaper than doing nothing.
“Climate change is really expensive,” she said, adding that governments and individuals are already paying more because of extreme weather that causes catastrophic flooding, for example.
Mitton said she had a meeting a few months ago with provincial transportation officials who said that wilder winter weather has increased the costs of keeping the roads clear.
“We can’t talk about this in a vacuum,” she said, adding that doing nothing is not an option.
“It’s much more expensive and it’s just sticking our heads in the sand,” Mitton said.
For more information from the federal government on how carbon taxes will affect New Brunswick, click here.