“Spare a thought for poor Michael Chong,” Nicholas Gall writes in Maclean’s magazine. “The MP for Wellington–Halton Hills stands alone in a crowded Conservative Party leadership field as the only candidate proposing a conservative approach to pricing carbon.” Then the writer proceeds to rubbish Chong’s standout proposals.
“Chong deserves credit for the courage of his convictions,” concedes Gall, formerly an analyst with the International Energy Agency and a communications adviser to the Green Party of Canada. “In a leadership race where his opponents are unwilling to even acknowledge the threat of climate change, he is appealing to an ostensibly conservative ethic of personal responsibility and proposing that something be done.”
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But Gall’s critical dissection leaves the Ontario MP’s plan in tatters.
Chong’s program, entitled Economic and Environmental Opportunity: Growing the Economy, Reducing Emissions, “enumerates 17 different climate-related regulations, programs, initiatives, funds, and tax credits that a Chong-led Conservative government would replace with a single price on carbon,” Gall observes. To achieve revenue neutrality, Chong’s carbon tax would be matched with a “$14.9-billion cut to personal income tax (including a 4% cut for top earners), a $1.9-billion cut to corporate tax, and the elimination of ‘half of the $22.9 billion in tax expenditures identified by the Fraser Institute.’”
But several programs that Chong slates for elimination, including the ecoEnergy Innovation Initiative and the Clean Energy Fund, have already expired, while the Federation of Canadian Municipalities’ the Green Municipal Fund holds an endowment that helps assure its continuity. At the same time, Chong would leave in place a variety of subsidies for fossil energy, including accelerated capital cost allowances for liquefied natural gas facilities, as well as corporate taxable income deductions for non-Canadian petroleum reserve acquisitions, fossil fuel exploration expenses, and oil and gas field development.
“A 2015 report from the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD),” Gall writes, “estimates these tax expenditures, available exclusively to Canada’s mining, oil, and natural gas sectors, cost the federal government approximately $1.1 billion in foregone revenue each year, while effectively subsidizing environmentally destructive practices like building access roads and clearcutting, to say nothing of carbon pollution.”
The London-based analyst concludes that “far from being an effective plan to combat emissions, Michael Chong’s proposal to take money away from energy consumers through a carbon tax, and then give it right back to them through income tax cuts, wouldn’t even be an effective cash grab. It would just be a waste of time.”