Paying Carbon Tax Now Will Save on Future Disaster Relief, Says Guilbeault

Paying Carbon Tax Now Will Save on Future Disaster Relief, Says Guilbeault
Minister of Environment and Climate Change Steven Guilbeault speaks during media availability at the Climate Positive Energy Initiative conference in Toronto on Aug. 10, 2023. (Arlyn McAdorey/The Canadian Press)
Noé Chartier

Canadians should be less concerned about paying the carbon tax and more about footing the bill for rebuilding after natural disasters caused by climate change, says Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault.

“When we talk about the cost of measures to address climate change, we have to realize that Canadians are paying a very high price tag for the impacts of climate change,” the minister said on Sept. 13 while attending the Liberal caucus retreat in London, Ontario.

Mr. Guilbeault said climate change is costing Canadians “tens of billions of dollars” and that there’s no “bumper sticker solution” to the issue. “We know that carbon pricing is one of the best ways to fight climate change.”

The Conservatives have been steadily calling for the Liberal government to drop its carbon tax and have turned the call into an “Axe the Tax” slogan, using it on party merchandise.

The Liberal government says that by imposing a “price on pollution,” consumers and businesses will reduce their use of hydrocarbons, which in turn will have an impact on climate and mitigate natural disasters caused by severe weather.

The Liberals say that climate science is not up for debate and that human beings are responsible for climate change. Detractors say atmospheric CO2 concentrations have natural variations and that other factors, such as the amount of energy emitted by the sun, have a greater impact on the Earth’s climate than human activity.

The Conservatives have instead said that methods other than taxation can be used to reduce emissions, such as the use of technology or reducing bureaucracy for green energy development.

Reducing Carbon Use

Conservatives have called on the government to drop the carbon tax amid an affordability crisis affecting Canadians, with elevated prices at gas stations and grocery stores.

Their message appears to be resonating with voters as the party forges ahead with a double-digit lead over the Liberals in the polls.

Facing decreasing support, Liberals have suggested the decline in approval is not due to their policies but rather how they communicate them to the public.

Liberal MP Lloyd Longfield says his party has the right policy. “When you go up against ‘Axe the Tax,’ it’s a bumper sticker, we can’t rule by bumper stickers, we have to put in good policy,” he said, using the same analogy as Mr. Guilbeault.

“What we have done is put in a measure to incent[ivize] people to reduce the use of carbon,” he said on Sept. 13 outside the caucus meeting.

“If they reduce the use of carbon, then the incentive payment that they get coming back to them, they get to keep. If they keep using carbon, that incentive payment doesn’t go to anywhere other than paying for more carbon.”

Mr. Longfield criticized the Tories’ approach to the carbon tax, saying they never talk about “the other side of the ledger” and fail to mention Canadians receive climate incentive payments to compensate for the carbon tax.
The Parliamentary Budget Officer says despite the climate payments, most Canadian families will see a “net loss” from the carbon tax.
The tax currently adds over 14 cents to a litre of gasoline and Ottawa seeks to raise it to over 37 cents a litre by 2030.