What happens when theory and practice collide? The theory is that carbon taxes reduce emissions by penalizing people for emitting greenhouse gas. That is the theory. Tomato farmer Bob Mitchell, owner of Ottawa-based SunTech Greenhouses, is more concerned with practice.
He releases CO2 into his greenhouse to encourage better production. The federal government charges carbon tax on that CO2 even though none goes into the atmosphere. The tomato tree absorbs it, just like they taught us in grade school.
That tax — along with the McGuinty-Wynne government’s decision to double electricity rates to subsidize unreliable and unneeded windmills and solar panels — inflated the farmer’s energy costs so much it became more expensive for Ottawa customers to buy his tomatoes than Mexican ones.
Why? Mexico has only a tiny carbon tax; only a fraction of Canada’s. But its tomatoes must travel by truck and train — polluting all the way through North America on their way to grocery stores in the nation’s capital.
None of that foreign transportation pollution is subject to the Canadian carbon tax either. Yet, the tax signals consumers to buy the more polluting foreign tomatoes instead of the greener local ones.
A better approach would be to lower taxes to lower emissions. This is exactly what Andrew Scheer has just proposed. Allowing low-emission businesses to write-off their investments faster, earn tax-free patent income from green technologies, while requiring firms that exceed emissions caps to invest in greening their operations.