By: Graham Lane
Published: Winnipeg Sun, March 31, 2017
Brian Pallister’s government was elected because Manitoba’s electorate was tired of NDP spend and tax philosophy. Selinger’s downfall began when he promised not to increase taxes only to do just that. Pallister has learned nothing from Selinger’s electoral evisceration.
Pallister is leading his government and caucus down the politically-perilous path of breaking promises and raising taxes. His rationale is climate change ‘Salvationism’, and its lucrative bastard child and convenient cash cow policy for government – a carbon tax. A conveniently sooty-sounding abbreviation for a tax on carbon dioxide, a harmless trace gas greening the planet by making plants thrive. Never mind the crumbling climate change narrative itself.
Canadian politicians, Pallister included, might have gotten away with trying to change the weather with special taxes on energy had our main economic competitor, America, agreed to stick with Obama’s/Clinton’s anti-hydrocarbon narrative. But, the American working class that resoundingly voted for change last November didn’t.
The Trump regime is dismantling climate change programming, removing the Environment Protection Agency from areas the jurisdiction of state-level government. Aggressively promoting cheaper energy, Trump is ending Obama’s over-reaching policies that discouraged fossil fuel development and pipeline construction.
The implications for the Canadian and Manitoba economies cannot be ignored. It is obvious: new investment, factories and jobs will be created in a world where American policy is to aggressively lower energy prices.
If the Pallister Government adopts Ottawa’s policy of increasing local energy costs with carbon taxes, investment will simply flow south. As for the resource sector, where producers, particularly farmers, receive international prices and have no pricing power, carbon taxes will simply come out of their bottom line. Having a carbon-energy tax when our American competitors have none means lower returns and wages here. Ultimately, the conceit of stand- alone carbon taxation spells a lower living standard for Manitobans and Canadians.
Folks are not stupid, and Pallister’s private sector voting base understand basic economics. So, why is Pallister stumbling haplessly down a perilous path where a “made in Manitoba” carbon tax policy is a post-Trump “shoot yourself in the foot” policy?
Pallister is heavily influenced by David McLaughlin, a New Brunswicker who ran the PC’s election campaign last year and now commutes in weekly as a policy advisor. McLaughlin is a most rare bird, a conservative operative who is a climate change evangelist. At a recent conference in Ottawa, he stated publicly that Pallister had campaigned on a carbon tax without any problem. Indeed!
One can find oblique language about carbon pricing only buried deeply in a 2016 PC campaign brochure. But, let’s not kid anybody, Mr. McLaughlin. The spendthrift NDP lost the election – neither a stampede for Pallister nor support for a carbon tax. And, virtually no one expected Trump to win and throw the climate change industrial complex into the garbage can.
Which brings us to the upcoming April 11th budget: all signs point, foolishly, both politically and economically, to a carbon tax. Understandably, various private sector lobby groups are moving to a war footing, sharpening their axes to oppose the witless Mr. Pallister’s carbon tax folly.
The famous economist John Maynard Keynes once said “When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?”
Graham Lane leads Manitoba Forward (manitobaforward.ca).