Alberta’s Carbon Tax Pain Offers Little Gain in the Greenhouse-Gas War

According to Ipsos-Reid, a majority of Albertans are against the new carbon tax. For far too long, politicians have been talking about “putting a price on carbon” with very little meaning behind those words. To the NDP’s credit, they have now provided Albertans with a definition of what the price means.


We have seen estimates of what the carbon tax may cost the average family (CAD $470 by 2018 according to most reports) but I doubt that most people comprehend the wide-ranging effects. Most won’t give it a thought until the tax takes effect at the pump.


Consider the impacts on our food supply — farmers will pay carbon tax on the fuel they use in their trucks, combines and other equipment; grain handlers and meat processors will pay it on their operations (don’t forget the packaging that uses fossil fuels); truckers will pay extra on all the transportation; grocery stores will pay extra for their operations; we will pay more to get to and from that store. This is a tax that will impact everyone heavily and the estimated $470 is mainly just talking about household natural gas and gasoline.


Municipalities will also pay the carbon tax. Police, Fire, EMS, snow clearing operations, natural gas to heat schools, costs for everything will go up. Calgary Mayor Nenshi says, “Our fuel costs will certainly go up, so as they reallocate some of the money from the carbon price back to people who can’t afford it, I hope they remember to allocate some of that back to the city.” In other words, property taxes are also going to go up, probably significantly.


You are likely asking yourself, what’s the point? The stock answer is that if Albertans want to fight global warming, then we must do our part to reduce emissions. The government is taking the approach that if they raise the price of fuel, we will reduce our usage. There certainly is logic in that, however, the effect will be extraordinarily punishing to families and low-income Albertans.


Those of us with families will struggle to reduce our emissions. We drive our kids to hockey practice, piano lessons or maybe to school. Many people take transit already; trains are packed every morning and night. Also consider that if you live or farm in rural Alberta, can you really exchange your 4×4 F350 for a Prius?


Industrial operations will have more success in reducing operations. Companies will have to invest billions in their operations and they can likely reduce emissions somewhat. The environmental NGOs see that investment as an economic “opportunity” — the shuttering of coal plants will lead our government to encourage “green” jobs in renewable electricity options.


The down side is that a study in Spain showed that for every ‘green’ job that was created, two were lost. When companies are scrambling to save every cent as we suffer through low commodity prices, is it responsible to force non-productive spending? Jobs will continue to be lost if that happens and investment will continue to flee. To top it off, Alberta will not even see reductions in CO2 from electricity generation because without a phase-out plan, plants that can operate will keep going but ratepayers will see our hard-earned cash get transferred out of province instead of the companies that are working to build our province.


What will be the net effect of all of this tax? Will we save the world from global warming if we shut our coal plants and limit oilsands? No, we will not. The oilsands accounts for “less than 0.15 per cent of global emissions” (Alberta Energy). As well, over 40 per cent of our electricity comes from coal generation, so that is going to be an extraordinarily expensive transition (just ask Ontarians).


Make no mistake, Albertans and Canadians are all willing to do their part in reducing overall emissions but this carbon tax is about more than CO2. It is about our government enforcing lifestyle changes upon us and it is a wealth transfer with no real benefit to Albertans.


The Environment Minister mused that this could be a temporary tax, but Canadians have heard that before, starting with income tax ahead of the First World War. If you have an opinion on this tax, the upcoming provincial election is the time to make your voice heard.

About the Author

Randy Kerr grew up in NW Calgary and is now living, working and raising his family in Calgary-Beddington. Randy’s career has been focused on oil and gas and encouraging more energy opportunities for Alberta and Canada. He has also owned and managed small businesses. Our future depends on our ability to grow our economy – which means appropriate energy development. The NDP agenda (which conveniently lines up well with Trudeau’s agenda) is not working.

Randy is focused on using his experience in energy and economic issues to get Calgarians back to work. He is running to bring our common voices into a government that hasn’t been listening. Randy is looking to bring forward practical, conservative solutions that will make a difference in our lives.

If you enjoyed this feature article, please consider becoming a patron of The Visionable