Climate Change Fatigue in Ontario

wynne-climate-changeGlobal has a new COMMENTARY: Climate change is the issue of our times — unless you’re an Ontario voter.

The world’s big thinkers tell us that the most important issue facing humanity is climate change. And, most of us agree with them.

Depending on what we do, climate change may or may not be the most important issue we face. Judging by past claims, for example that we are heading into an ice age, I’d like to see the evidence.

We also agree about both the cause and the potential cure for climate change: we need to reduce the human activities that put carbon into the earth’s atmosphere.

I don’t agree. If you look at the surface temperatures, they’ve been increasing since long before we’d made any difference to the atmospheric concentration of CO2. What I will agree on is that humans are accelerating the rate that the average surface temperature is increasing, based on the satellite data.

What does this have to do with the Ontario election? Plenty.

Does it? Even if you believe the claim that climate change is indeed the most important issue facing the world, its hard to see how Ontario politics are going to play a big roll either way. As the world’s 9th largest emitter of carbon dioxide, all of Canada creates less than 3% of all CO2 emissions.

One of the signature policies of the incumbent Liberal Party is leadership on climate change. And, since most of us care about helping the world’s climate, this should be a winning issue for the Liberals.

I care about helping reduce carbon dioxide emissions, but I have no faith that the governments policies will make any difference, and they will definitely cost us dearly.

Not in Ontario though. At least not now. That’s because the effects of the Liberal’s approach to dealing with carbon, including changes to hydro rates and carbon pricing, has helped to galvanize a potential winning coalition around Doug Ford and the PC Party.

And that’s because carbon taxes that aren’t directed at decreasing emissions (like the formerly revenue neutral BC carbon tax that is no longer revenue neutral and is considered general revenue) are a tax grab. Since hydro electric power is a renewable energy source, you’d think that a government that cared about the environment would make it cheaper, but according to the CBC, Ontarians pay highest rates in Canada for hydro.

For many voters this no longer about helping the climate, it’s about increasing taxes, affordability, and government mismanagement.

And that is understandable. The government does one thing when taxes are increased: it grows.

What happened? While most Ontarians agree on the need to do something on climate, they don’t give it the same level of priority that the Wynne Liberals do.

Or perhaps they disagree with Wynne’s methods.

The Wynne government sees fighting climate change as one of its top priorities, but Ontario voters rank it number eight behind issues such as increased taxes and increasing hydro rates.

And there it is: to decrease the amount of carbon dioxide Ontario emits, the government is increasing the cost of renewable hydro electricity. This makes no sense.

Even if voters are aligned with the prioritization the Liberals have given to climate (which they aren’t), they now see the NDP as better able to deal the issue. So, even the voters who care most about climate now see the NDP as the better option.

And how damning is that. The Liberals are so disliked that fiscal conservatives are fleeing to the right, and social progressives to the left.

What’s also happened in this election is that the emphasis in the phrase “carbon tax” has moved from the “carbon” to the “tax.” And, since voters are more concerned about taxes than climate today, the cure for too many seems worse than the disease. This is especially the case for voters who are more pessimistic about the economy.

Increasing taxes should always be a solution of last resort, and new taxes should be directly targeted at the problems they are trying to solve. Unless you can show how your carbon tax will actually improve peoples lives, why wouldn’t they vote against it?

Evidence of how public views have aligned against the Liberal’s management of the climate issue emerges when you ask Ontarians if the carbon tax is just a tax grab: 72 per cent agree. This includes 85 per cent of PC voters, 72 per cent of NDP voters, and even 54 per cent of Liberal voters.

And you have provided no evidence that they are wrong.

Another 68 percent of Ontario voters also agree that a carbon tax is nothing but a pointless gesture that won’t help the earth’s climate.

And you have provided no evidence that they are wrong.

When you add it up then, carbon pricing has become a political millstone around the neck of the Ontario Liberal Party in this election. This won’t end with the Ontario election. That’s because the Trudeau Liberals, like the Wynne Liberals, have made carbon pricing a cornerstone issue for their mandate.

And hopefully, it will drag them under as well.

Based on what we’re now seeing, this issue could also represent an electoral liability for the federal Liberals in Ontario. And, the situation won’t be helped by a Premier Doug Ford who has vowed to fight the pending federal climate tax if he is elected on June 7.

Well, I agree with Ford on at least one thing then. In BC, we have a carbon tax brought in by the Liberals, who lied about keeping it revenue neutral, that has since been increased by the NDP. And yet, when the greater Vancouver regional district wants to fund transit projects, the money from the carbon tax is nowhere to be found. Is it any wonder people believe that carbon taxes are just a cynical tax grab? The evidence points to that being the case.

About jimbelton

I'm a software developer, and a writer of both fiction and non-fiction, and I blog about movies, books, and philosophy. My interest in religious philosophy and the search for the truth inspires much of my writing.
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