Alberta Environment Minister Shannon Phillips is pushing back on “patently false” claims about the province’s new carbon levy, originating from a political action committee connected to the provincial United Conservative Party and its newly-anointed leader, Jason Kenney.
The contents of the meme from Alberta Can’t Wait “have been shared thousands of times, drawing a mix of ire, frowny-face emojis, and condemnation,” the Edmonton Journal reports. “But there’s one small problem—it’s wrong.”
The meme claims the carbon levy will drive up home heating bills by 75% January 1, but the Journal says that just isn’t so. The tax on natural gas will indeed increase by 51¢ per gigajoule, from C$1.01 to $1.52. “But the carbon tax only applies to the natural gas portion of your bill—not the delivery or transmission costs, franchise fees, or those other weird charges,” the Journal notes. So the actual increase is closer to 15% on the entire bill.
The tax will indeed account for about 75% of today’s cost of natural gas, writes provincial affairs reporter and podcaster Emma Graney. But “the current price of natural gas is ridiculously low—around $2 per gigajoule,” she notes. “Remember back in 2008, when gas cost around $15 per gigajoule? If prices were that high today, the carbon tax would still be only $1.52 per gigajoule, or around 10% of the cost of the natural gas.” That’s because “the tax doesn’t yo-yo with the price of gas. It’s fixed,” based on a dollar amount rather than a percentage.
In the end, a typical natural gas bill will increase from $30.85 to $36.08 per month. And what the Journal doesn’t address is the dollars the carbon levy will make available for energy efficiency programs aimed at savings consumers $2 billion over a period of years. That activity could create thousands of jobs across the province, while allowing Alberta to “shed its dubious distinction of being the only North American jurisdiction without a rebate program available to consumers,” the Calgary Herald reported when the program was introduced last year.
The fake data has become an issue because it’s circulating so widely in public, and has come up several times in the provincial legislature, the Journal notes. While Kenney accuses the NDP government of “clobbering seniors on fixed incomes,” Phillips castigates the UCP for “scaring people with numbers that are patently untrue.”
University of Calgary economist Trevor Tombe said it’s “misleading” to claim the carbon levy will increase 75%. “Political leaders have an important role in society to facilitate debate on these policy issues,” he told Graney. “When they play political games or mislead the public with either outright false statements…or when you just have leading statements that are just vague enough to not be an outright lie…it pollutes the nature and quality of public debate on an important issue.”