Surprise, Surprise: Northern B.C. Supports the Carbon Tax

Plenty of Vancouver’s latte-sipping, seawall-jogging condo dwellers support the carbon tax. But so does everyone else in British Columbia keen to secure a better future for his or her community.

Not that you’d know that after listening to Jordan Bateman of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation. In a recent article, Bateman suggests that rural British Columbians universally loathe the province’s world-leading climate policy.

Bateman also rehashes the myth that carbon pricing unfairly punishes interior and northern residents, because they tend to use more energy. He is mistaken on both counts.

This past summer, the provincial government conducted a review of the carbon tax by inviting British Columbians to share their thoughts on what should happen next with the policy. Since its 2008 introduction, the tax has slowly risen to its current rate of $30/tonne, which adds about seven cents to a litre of gas.

Enter the Better Future Fund. Through the site, my organization, Clean Energy Canada — along with the David Suzuki Foundation, the Pembina Institute, the B.C. Sustainable Energy Association, and Organizing for Change — sought to engage citizens on how an expanded and strengthened carbon tax might benefit their communities.

The response was amazing. In a little over three weeks in August, more than 1,700 British Columbians sent letters through the site asking their government to not only retain the tax, but strengthen and expand it. Roughly one third of those responses came from northern and interior communities, which approximates the distribution of B.C.’s population.

Here’s a clickable and zoomable map showing where those letters of support came from.

Each letter sent to the government through the Better Future Fund site also went to our team. And when we flip through them, it is easy to see the passion and pride that northern residents have for the carbon tax:

“We already claim to be The Best Place On Earth,” wrote Jordan Carlson, from Prince George, B.C., in calling for a strengthened and expanded tax. “Let’s make it TRUE.”

“I am fully behind BC’s innovative and progressive carbon tax,” wrote Donald Pettit, from Dawson Creek, B.C. “It is setting an example for other jurisdictions and encouraging them to take a similar leadership role against climate change. I encourage you to continue the tax, even expand the tax, and use the revenues generated to subsidize the changes required to achieve true sustainability for our province.”

Another letter sent from the heart of the northeast, centre of the province’s booming natural gas sector, called the carbon tax a “huge step in the right direction for our province and for the planet.”

Those letters, and many dozens like them, echo the one sent to the carbon tax review committee by Mike Bernier, the mayor of Dawson Creek, B.C., which is located at “mile zero” on the Alaska Highway. “The carbon tax is one tool in B.C.’s toolbox that will allow B.C. to achieve its climate action objectives, while still maintaining a strong economy,” said Bernier in an August letter to the province.

Clearly, plenty of northerners see an important role for B.C.’s carbon tax.

Now let’s look at the charge that the carbon tax is unfair to northerners. It is true that rural residents grapple with a colder climate and longer distances, and as a result often burn more fuel for transportation, home heat, and more.

That’s exactly why the province includes a $200 annual carbon-tax credit for all homeowners outside of the Capital Regional District (Victoria), Metro Vancouver, and the Fraser Valley Regional District. That adds up to an estimated $77 million awarded to these citizens in 2012/2013 — which is seven percent of the overall revenue collected by the carbon tax.

That’s on top of low-income tax credits of $190 million, and personal income tax cuts of $228 million, spread across the province over the same period.

Taking the Peace Region as an example, the average household produces 11 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions for heating and transportation according to data from the province. That’s a bit higher than the eight tonnes produced by the average Metro Vancouverite, but the extra $90 paid in carbon tax is more than offset by the northern credit.

Whether you drive a duallie pickup truck or a SmartCar, the benefits are the same. Climate leadership, including the carbon tax, helps secure a better future for all British Columbians.

A version of this post first appeared on The Huffington Post.

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