Tuesday, November 28, 2017

More Tory smoke and mirrors, with the welcome addition of a carbon tax

In a rather cynical exercise in sleight of hand, Patrick Brown and the Ontario Conservatives have issued a "People's Guarantee", after their latest party conference, and in preparation for next year's provincial election.
In it, Brown, who is still struggling with issues of name recognition and public perception, vows that, if he is elected and then doesn't deliver on his five main platform promises, then he will not stand again for a second term. Well, thanks for that, Patrick, but frankly you would be unlikely to be re-elected anyway, so it's a bit of a redundant guarantee.
The Conservatives are promising the moon - tax cuts for the middle class, spending increases in transit and mental healthcare, an even bigger subsidy for electricity prices than the Liberals are currently inadvisably proposing, and a few sweeteners for special interests, along with no apparent reductions in services - which just doesn't add up fiscally, until you take into account the huge increase in the provincial debt it would necessarily entail, and the fact that in future years we will all be paying more in taxes for it.
Interestingly, though, part of the funding for all these promises, albeit a relatively small part, is to come from abandoning Ontario's cap-and-trade commitments, instituted by the current Liberal administration, in favour of a simple carbon tax. Brown has been attacked by the traditionalist wing of his party for his espousal of a carbon tax of any sort, but this move appears to be part of his attempt to appeal to everyone, to be all things to all people. It's also an indication of just how clustered in the middle Ontario politics is these days. But what's interesting is that I find myself supporting the substitution of a carbon tax for the current cap-and-trade system (which is a very complex, opaque and difficult-to-understand system, open to abuse and pressure from lobbyists, and unlikely to lead to changes in people's energy use behaviours). Now, it's not enough to make me vote Tory - heaven forfend! - but it would be nice to see the other parties respond in kind.

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