Now's not the time for a B.C. carbon tax hike says MLA

Carbon tax hike will hurt

As we step into April, residents of Kelowna might be bracing themselves for the typical lighthearted pranks and jokes that come with April Fool's Day.

Unfortunately with B.C.’s carbon tax going up by 23% on April 1, there won’t be much to joke about.

Some quick background. The B.C. carbon tax applies to fossil fuels like gasoline, diesel and natural gas, which are integral to our daily lives, not only for personal transportation but also for heating our homes and powering our industries. The former B.C. Liberal government, under Premier Christy Clark, held the then- revenue neutral tax at $30 a ton until 2017.

In 2017, the NDP government started to increase the tax and rather than keep it revenue neutral and made it a tax that went into general revenue. In 2021, then premier John Horgan, agreed to sign onto the federal plan to raise the carbon tax to $170 per metric tonne by 2030. So every year, on April 1, the carbon tax goes up in B.C.

This year the carbon tax will rise from $65 a tonne to $80 a tonne, rising to nearly 18 cents per litre of gasoline, to 21 cents per litre of diesel and to 15 cents per cubic metre of natural gas.

The consequence is an unavoidable uptick that affects virtually everything, from the groceries we buy to the services we depend on.

So, while 9,097 people went to the Central Okanagan Food Bank in January—a record—and 9,000 went in February, the premier sees fit to pile on another tax increase (in April).

The sting of the carbon tax hike is felt most acutely by those who have no real alternatives. Consider the families and individuals in Kelowna who rely on natural gas for heating. The alternatives—such as electricity or renewable sources—are not always viable due to infrastructure limits or the significant upfront costs associated with making the switch. Similarly, for many, driving isn't a choice but a necessity, dictated by the lack of public transportation.

The trucking industry exemplifies the broader impact of the carbon tax increase. Trucks are the lifelines of our economy, responsible for moving goods from manufacturers to stores and ultimately to consumers. As the carbon tax rises, so does the cost of trucking.

This tax increase won’t just affect trucking companies, it cascades down to the price of every product transported by those trucks—from fresh produce to household goods, everything becomes more expensive.

The irony is the trucking industry, critical as it is, has few feasible alternatives to diesel-powered vehicles at the moment. The technology for electric or hydrogen trucks, although promising, is not yet at a stage where it can replace diesel engines across the board.

The issue with the carbon tax is it isn’t about the goal of reducing carbon emissions, it is now a tax that goes directly into general revenue. There are other ways to reduce carbon emissions that don’t involve a regressive punishing tax increases on the general population.

The government will argue it offers the Climate Action Tax Credit to offset the cost of the carbon tax. Not only is the tax credit woefully inadequate to cover the true costs of the carbon tax, it doesn’t apply to many families because of income eligibility.

Under the NDP, B.C. pays the highest net carbon and fuel taxes in Canada, west of Quebec.

There is no tax credit offered to small and medium businesses in BC.

Right now, half of Kelowna’s residents are only $200 away from insolvency, 50% of our restaurants aren’t profitable, our farmers aren’t able to make money and people are no longer able to make ends meet.

It is the worst time for a tax hike, especially one that affects the price of everything.

Last week, BC United Leader Kevin Falcon joined calls from seven other premiers to stop the planned April 1 (federal) carbon tax hike and provide relief to Canadians who are financially struggling.

B.C. Premier David Eby’s response to those requests was to scoff and scorn.

It's time for a more balanced approach that safeguards both our environment and our economy.

My question to you is this:

How will the carbon tax increase affect you?

I love hearing from you and read every email you send. Please email me at [email protected] or call the office at 250-712-3620.

Renee Merrifield is the BC United MLA for Kelowna-Mission.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

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About the Author

Renee Merrifield is the BC United MLA for Kelowna - Mission and Opposition caucus whip and critic for Environment and Climate Change, Technology and Innovation and Citizens’ Services. She currently serves on the Select Standing Committee on Education as well.

A long-time resident of Kelowna, Renee started, and continues to lead, many businesses from construction and development to technology. Renee is a compassionate individual who cares about others in the community, believes in giving back and helping those in need through service.

She values your feedback and conversation, and can be reached at [email protected] or 250.712.3620

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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