Ontario Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner doesn’t have a seat in the legislature, which is unfortunate because he understands the flaws in Premier Kathleen Wynne’s carbon pricing plan better than most politicians.
And he’s the only party leader with a plan actually designed to lower industrial greenhouse gas emissions linked to climate change.
This as opposed to Wynne’s cap-and-trade scheme, which is primarily a cash grab.
Its main purpose is take almost $2 billion of our money in its first year alone, starting in 2017, to spend as her spendthrift Liberal government sees fit.
As Schreiner wrote recently in the Huffington Post: “The biggest winners in the Liberal plan could very well be the lobbyists hired by polluters to obtain free emission permits, and by industry insiders to fill their particular basket of carrots.”
The emission permits the Wynne government will give away for free to over 100 major industrial emitters, for at least the first four years of cap-and-trade, are a huge public subsidy being paid by ordinary Ontarians to these businesses.
Each permit entitles the bearer to emit one tonne of carbon dixoide equivalent into the atmosphere.
They are the stock of the carbon trading market the government creates through cap-and-trade.
Free permits undermine the purpose and integrity of carbon pricing, which is to attach a cost to industrial carbon dioxide emissions.
Businesses will not only be able to sell these free credits to other companies, they will also be able to include the cost of these permits in their retail prices to consumers as if they had paid for them.
That’s what happened in Europe’s 11-year-old cap-and-trade market, the Emissions Trading Scheme, on which the Ontario plan is modelled.
While the province, unlike Europe, is not giving free permits to the energy sector — which caused electricity prices to skyrocket — they will provide windfall profits to other industries.
By contrast, Schreiner’s carbon pricing plan, called carbon fee and dividend, is designed to lower emissions.
It’s revenue neutral, meaning the government doesn’t make any money and there is no need for the government bureaucracy cap-and-trade creates, or to give free permits to industry.
Carbon fee and dividend is essentially a consumption or sales tax that puts a price on the fossil fuel energy it takes to create virtually all goods and services.
But the government then returns all the money it raises to the public on a per capita basis through regular dividend cheques.
This helps people cope with the higher cost of living under carbon pricing and gives them the choice to reduce their carbon footprint in order to save money.
Businesses reduce emissions to meet increased consumer demand for lower carbon consuming, and thus money-saving, products.
The big question is whether government could be trusted to make the system truly revenue neutral.
But at least its purpose is to reduce emissions, not make money for governments and big business at the public’s expense.