Quebec Introduces Carbon Tax

The Province of Quebec has introduced the country's first explicit carbon tax, funds to be used to fight global warming. Natural Resources Minister Claude Bechard (shown here with Premier Jean Charest) says the tax is based on the "polluter pays" principle. "That is not negotiable," the minister said. The tax isn't much at .08 cents per litre (just over 3 cents a gallon) but it will raise C$ 200 million a year, which will be spent on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and public transit.

Meanwhile, the Green Party of Canada has announced its program for a 12 cent per litre tax, or 45 cents per gallon. Surprisingly, the economists at the Conference Board of Canada agrees with the principle in a new report that says carbon taxes are a fair and effective way to curb consumption of fossil fuels. Glen Hodgson, the conference board's chief economist and author of the report, compares the carbon tax to the effort to end government deficits. It took 20 years, but few politicians now dare promise anything but a surplus.

According to Environmental writer Peter Gorrie, In its pure form, the tax is based on the carbon in coal, oil, natural gas and other fossil fuels. If it's high enough, it sends a clear price signal: All fossil fuels get more expensive. Coal, with the most carbon, takes the biggest hit. Natural gas, the cleanest, goes up the least. The expected result: Consumers shift from coal and oil to natural gas, or, even better, from fossil fuels to non-polluting alternatives.

"It's a very effective and efficient way to achieve changes in behaviour," says Amy Taylor of the Pembina Institute, a Calgary-based research and advocacy group. ::The Star

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