On June 7, 2020 the Globe and Mail published an article by Adam Radwanski criticizing an earlier piece by Christopher Ragan and Andrew Potter of McGill University. The McGill team advocated the “green recovery” plan as an “excellent opportunity to substantially increase the federal carbon tax”--“rather than trying to pick climate-change winners through government spending”. Ragan, founder of the Eco-fiscal Commission, and a strong advocate for the carbon tax, has suggested it would have to increase to $210/tonne to be effective in the reduction of emissions to contain global warming.
Radwanski’s article shows he isn’t a huge fan of the carbon tax. In his words: “it’s hard to imagine any government deciding to immediately “double or triple" a carbon price in the middle of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.” Anyone with a small amount of common sense would support his view! Raising taxes as we try to emerge from a chronic financial crisis and record unemployment rates does seem a bad plan. As Radwanski notes, the government would need to impose “huge costs on businesses”. This would likely result in many businesses either failing or moving to friendly jurisdictions like the US that have pulled out of the Paris Accord and where only a few states impose carbon taxes.
Radwanski’s article then undertakes a review of other options for intervention – and subsidization. These are just the sorts of things the Eco-Fiscal Commission argued against. He speaks favourably about government subsidizing building retrofits and electric vehicle purchases which he says are: “two of the most obvious potential stimulus measures”. He goes on to say the public won’t buy EVs “if there isn’t enough charging infrastructure” implying the need for government support there too. He notes that transit systems can’t afford to buy electric buses due to ridership drops and opines how the Feds could help finance their purchases. He also expresses concern and the need “to accelerate the end of coal-fired power” and avoid “a looming ramp-up of gas-fired energy generation in Ontario.” Interestingly, he avoids mentioning the fact that the very same “gas-fired energy generation” in Ontario is required to back up the McGuinty/Wynne contracted intermittent and unreliable wind and solar generation that drove up energy costs.
Radwanski’s conclusion? The shift – by which he seems to mean to a green future - is going to require more than one policy tool. One assumes he means some combination of carbon taxes and various interventions that pick favourites with government subsidies.
And that’s where Mr. Gerald Butts and Mr. Bruce Lourie enter the conversation.
Lourie was quick to share Radwanski’s piece. Butts then responded on June 9th, saying “Strong piece by @aradwanski. Germany just set the global standard for a clean recovery”!
Well there you go. Two leading architects of the last two decades of interventionist and expensive government action on energy in Ontario and Canada applaud a piece saying, in sum, that we need more, not less, taxation and intervention going forward.
The Green Energy Act – where both Butts and Lourie had a hand - resulted in Ontario having some of the highest electricity prices in North America. But there is no talk of that here. There is no talk of how all those programmes and policies they thought up have hurt affordability, and with it our competitiveness. No, all we get is the statement that Germany, with their own million dollar clean energy recovery plan, is setting a “global standard,” and the very helpful re-statement of Radwanski’s point: “it’s complicated.” Lourie and Butts are greenwashing Canada’s taxpayers and seem hell-bent on further destroying the Canadian economy – their new “Resilient Recovery” initiative is a case in point.
What none of these people - Ragan, Potter, Butts, Lourie or Radwanski ever talk about is the fact that the Canadian consumer is being hit again and again with more and more costs. When will this end? Only when someone steps forward and says stop – pull out of the Paris Accord, abandon ridiculous targets that hurt Canadians, and get on with allowing Canadians to get on with trying to recover from these messes. It isn’t that complicated!