I like the carbon tax because it makes me money

Small changes in energy use could save families and municipalities many millions of dollars every year

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carbon taxRED DEER, Alta. Oct. 17, 2016/ Troy Media/ – When it comes to discussions about taxes and public policy, everyone has an axe to grind – including me.

Well-funded business lobbies push for lowered taxes. The Canadian Taxpayers Federation claims to represent my interests as an ordinary citizen, but they’ve never asked me what my interests might be.

I support carbon taxes in Alberta and federally. And not just for environmental reasons, or to improve Alberta’s and Canada’s image regarding climate change. I want carbon taxes because I’ll make out like a bandit.

I can hardly wait for January so our household can collect its first $300 rebate.

We’ve already invested in energy-saving technology in our little home. So our increases in utility and gasoline costs as a result of carbon levies should be much less than those of other less efficient households. Carbon taxes are linked to energy consumption and rebates are linked to income, so families like ours will be ahead of the game.

What’s not to like?

I once calculated the economic benefit of biking to work to be about $1,000 a year. That’s a tax-free increase in my disposable income. If you add the cost of carbon tax in 2017 and you bike to work for the nine or 10 months it’s feasible, that benefit rises.

Who doesn’t want an extra $1,000 of spending money a year, plus a $200 or $300 rebate from the government for not burning so much fuel?

In Alberta – and Saskatchewan – a lot of people apparently don’t.

There are yard signs in Red Deer saying “Kill the Carbon Tax.” These people apparently don’t like their money.

Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall said the proposed federal carbon tax will siphon $2.5 billion out of his province when fully implemented by 2022. That drew a Mostly Baloney rating from CBC’s fact-checking site, Baloney Meter.

That’s because there are two sides to the taxation coin, something most business lobbies and the Canadian Taxpayers Federation don’t cite often enough. There’s the taking with one hand and the spending with the other. There’s also the social benefit of the purposes behind taxes, which are worth money.

The federal government says the money taken in carbon taxes from the provinces will be returned to the provinces. Wall, like all premiers, can allot that money as he sees fit.

The Alberta government will lower its small business tax from three per cent to two once our carbon tax comes into effect. Who doesn’t like a two per cent tax rate?

In fact, a recent Globe and Mail article suggests that each $1 increase in business taxes produces $3 to $5 in losses to business. If so, then the $865 million the Alberta government intends to allocate toward a small business rate cut should produce a rather hefty return.

Raising the $9.6 billion Alberta says it will collect in carbon tax over the next five years is one thing. Deciding how that money is spent is another.

What we have now is pretty vague: $6.2 billion to diversify the energy industry and create new jobs, plus $3.4 billion in rebates to businesses and communities (I hope that means municipalities). And to households.

And that’s the part that should be getting the scrutiny.

Years ago, Alberta put a levy on car and truck tires. Spending that tax to find innovative ways to recycle those tires is widely hailed as a money-saving, job-producing success. But the costly effort of a previous Alberta government to capture and store carbon dioxide has not been a money-saving, job-producing success. Not every government initiative succeeds.

So we need a [popup url=”http://www.troymedia.com/2015/11/29/albertas-new-carbon-tax-anything-but-revenue-neutral/” height=”1000″ width=”1200″ scrollbars=”1″]revenue-neutral[/popup] carbon tax and it needs to fund positive initiatives. Rather than griping about a tax – which is easy – we need to be able to judge the financial return.

I get a good financial return from leaving my car in the garage as much as possible, and walking or cycling. With the carbon tax, I expect that return to increase. Multiplied throughout the province, such a small change could save families and municipalities many millions of dollars every year.

If business can lobby for its narrow interests in the making of tax policy, why can’t I? Bring on the carbon tax. I have plans for the money.

Greg Neiman is a freelance editor, columnist and blogger living in Red Deer, Alta. Greg is included in Troy Media’s Unlimited Access subscription plan.

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