As it is currently proposed, the carbon tax seems more like a covert way for the NDP to generate additional revenue to fund priority programs than a mechanism to reduce carbon emissions. It should be noted that previous governments funded a wide range of green initiatives, not unlike those that the current government proposes to fund via the carbon tax, out of existing general revenue. If this government cannot afford to fully fund its priorities, including green initiatives, it should be honest with Albertans about how it plans to make up that shortfall.
Amending Bill 20 to make the carbon tax truly revenue neutral would go a long way towards mitigating the impact that this policy will have on the Alberta economy. There are many small- and medium-sized enterprises across the province that will struggle to absorb the extra costs associated with the carbon tax. To some extent, these extra costs will be passed down to the consumer, but they must balance that with the need to remain competitive. While it’s true that the small business tax was reduced from three per cent to two per cent, the savings this will provide will not begin to cover the increased costs that the NDP’s carbon tax would bring. The negative economic effects associated with what amounts to a significant tax hike will reverberate through every sector of our economy and handicap growth for decades to come.
Finally, the government is incredibly vague about the indirect costs associated with the carbon tax. We know that direct costs from gasoline, electricity and natural gas will be upwards of $500 for a typical family of four and that the proposed rebates will cover all or part of these costs for 60 per cent of Albertans. But what about the increased costs for consumer goods and services? With costs set to go up at every stage of the value chain, it’s impossible to accurately calculate the increased costs for everything from groceries, to clothing, to minor hockey ice time. These costs will add up to much more than the $75 per year that the government has said it will.
We are extremely disappointed that the NDP rejected this amendment. Revenue neutrality is the absolute minimum that Albertans should demand from the government. Without it, the NDP’s carbon tax is nothing more than a covert way to raise taxes on Albertans and redistribute according to their unique “world view”. A revenue neutral price on carbon would achieve the same environmental goals as does the tax proposed in Bill 20, without the damage to Alberta families and business.