CP Leadership Candidate Chong Bucks Party History with Pitch Built on Carbon Tax
Toronto-area MP and GreenPAC endorsee Michael Chong, long a thorn in the side of the Conservative Party of Canada’s establishment, is betting that support for a national carbon tax will help him stand out from the crowd of nine other candidates seeking the party’s top job.
Chong “is proposing a dramatic overhaul of the tax system based on new revenues from taxing carbon,” Canadian Press reports in the National Observer. “Chong says his plan would cut overall federal income taxes by 10% and corporate taxes by 5%—while imposing an escalating tax on carbon emissions that would rise to $130 a tonne by 2030.”
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“We have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to both lower income taxes and clean up our environment through the pricing of carbon,” Chong told Parliament Hill reporters at a news conference Wednesday.
Chong’s proposal appears to rely almost entirely on setting a carbon price high enough to influence marketplace decisions. It assumes the national “floor price” envisioned by the Liberal climate plan proceeds, establishing an initial price of $10 per tonne beginning in 2018, rising to $50 by 2022. Thereafter, in his plan, a future Conservative government would allow the provinces “to keep the first $30 per tonne of [carbon tax] revenues and receive federal subsidies if they fully rebated those revenues through provincial tax cuts.” An energy credit would be added to the existing low-income GST credit. Federally, Chong conceded, his plan would be “revenue negative for several years.”
The proposal would represent a stunning reversal of Conservative party orthodoxy that for years has reviled any form of carbon tax as a “job-killer,” in defiance of most expert opinion. Hewing closer to free-market ideology, however, Chong also proposes to scrap “more than a dozen other federal programs designed to curb emissions, including renewable fuel regulations and coal-fired electricity regulations,” many of which were enacted under the Conservative government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
Nonetheless, “the level of detail in the report is truly impressive,” economist Trevor Tombe of the University of Calgary’s school of public policy told the Observer. “He explicitly wants to raise the carbon price to $130 per tonne. That shows he’s serious about meeting the 30% reduction target—and he’s serious about doing it in the most economically efficient way possible.”