When the BC Liberals first introduced the carbon tax – credit where credit is due – it was among their more progressive, forward-looking pieces of legislation.
Unlike many jurisdictions, B.C. would not ignore the threat of global climate change. Cutting atmospheric carbon dioxide was understood to be an important part of government policy.
And the way it was done was not bad. For every bit of carbon tax imposed at the pump, British Columbians got a bit of relief on their income taxes.
But the use of fossil fuels has not abated. And the NDP governments change of course on how the tax is spent was probably long overdue.
This week’s budget will see the carbon tax go up yet again. But this time the money raised will be directed towards specific programs designed to cut carbon emissions.
Those include subsidies for buying electric vehicles, incentives for energy-saving improvements in homes such as better insulation or heat pumps, and cash to help remote and indigenous communities move to cleaner energy sources.
The problem with the old system of slashing income taxes was that it didn’t necessarily change behaviour that much.
If you got an income tax cut, and you turned around and invested that in a new hybrid or electric car, great! But you could also buy a bigger car and drive further. Bit of a wash, there.
By putting the money towards green infrastructure and getting cleaner cars on the road, hopefully the new carbon tax will make a measurable mark on emissions.