By Don R. Campbell
The Alberta NDP push through Carbon Tax legislation to get it done right before their convention. Throughout history, the sad reality of rushing legislation through without proper deliberation, debate, public consultation and discussion is that the inevitable unintended consequences (all legislation comes with unintended consequences) are much larger and much more negative than a properly designed piece of legislation.
It is true that a well-designed and well written Carbon Tax program can work (take a look at BC as an example). However, under this new Alberta legislation, many of the obvious consequences identified in other jurisdictions as problematic have been ignored for political glad-handing and optics. For instance, even the fact that they mention it is revenue neutral is a troubling insight into the lack of understanding of basic accounting. Revenue neutral means reducing taxes in other areas to compensate for this new tax, but we will leave that for another day.
The negative impact will be felt by many charities in the province, at the exact time that they need all the help they can get. More Albertans now are relying on charities than we have witnessed in decades. Under this legislation, running some charities will cost more, which means less money to support Albertans in need. For businesses, the impact will be felt at all levels, but most importantly with the increased operating costs, they will have fewer dollars to hire (short or long term) employees.
With this new Carbon Tax, a whole new bureaucracy of people managing, monitoring, auditing citizens, charities and companies will need to be created. This means even further growth in government hiring (intended consequence?).
The bottom line is that some sort of Carbon Action Plan is important in the long run for the positioning of Alberta in the world view. Yes, probably if for nothing else than optics. Given the current state of the Alberta economy and the many citizens and businesses who are struggling, is it the right time to push through a piece of legislation that will have a detrimental effect? Probably not, if the consequence is to hurt people more than it helps them. Will the plan as it is designed be revenue neutral, or even reduce real life carbon outputs? That TRULY remains to be seen.
We all need to watch the unintended consequences closely, and every Albertan citizen needs to understand that this is just an additional provincial tax, without it being called a Sales Tax. The incredible response by Albertans during the Fort McMurray fires is proving that Albertans are resilient but Albertans are also wise, caring and logical and have VERY long memories. Lets continue to keep an eye out for our fellow Alberta citizens, because it looks like even more will be struggling in the future for the sake of optics.