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First Nations will feel carbon tax plan

Strahl cals Liberals' Green Shift 'bad public policy'



A local MP is decrying the federal Liberal Party’s carbon tax plan that he calls a “nightmare” waiting to happen.

Chuck Strahl, the Conservative member for Chilliwack-Fraser Canyon, a riding that includes Pemberton, told reporters on a June 20 conference call that the Liberal Party’s proposed “Green Shift” is “bad public policy” that could see heavy impacts on rural and First Nations communities.

The federal Liberals announced their “Green Shift” last week, a multi-fold plan that aims to fight climate change as well as reduce poverty, according to a handbook released with the plan. It includes a federal tax on fossil fuels such as coal and natural gas that will start at $10 per tonne of carbon dioxide, a rate that would peak at $40 per tonne in four years.

The “Green Shift” would also place a tax of 7 cents per litre on diesel in the fourth year of its existence, as well as an extra 12 cents per litre on heavy fuel oil. There would be no additional tax on diesel in the first year of its implementation. The proposed tax would not be added to the price of gasoline.

The Liberals say their plan will be “revenue neutral,” generating about $15.5 billion in additional revenue by the fourth year, but it would be paired with $15.5 billion in tax cuts.

The plan will not be implemented unless the Liberals form a government, but it nevertheless has Strahl, also the minister of Indian and Northern Affairs, balking at the proposed taxes.

“The only shift you’ll get is from your wallet into the oil companies’ hands,” he said.

It is not yet clear whether the taxes would be in addition to British Columbia’s carbon tax, which takes effect July 1. However Joyce Murray, a Liberal MP, said British Columbians will not be penalized for being “out ahead on this issue,” though she did not rule out that the taxes could come on top of existing ones.

“How this will be structured, it will be a matter of negotiation,” she said. “We will not handicap British Columbians for being out in front.”

Strahl’s biggest problem with the “Green Shift” is the impact it could have on First Nations communities.

“Any remote community in Canada uses heating oil for heat, and diesel generation to produce electricity, the two things that they’re going to tax the most,” he said.

Gerard Peters, chief negotiator for the In-SHUCK-ch Nation, told Pique that various First Nations communities in the Lillooet Lake area, including Port Douglas and Skatin, use diesel generators to produce electricity. However, not having examined the plan in full, he did not comment on the potential impacts it could have on those areas.

“I will have to consider whether or not they’re exempt from the tax,” he said. “I think I’d be keen on knowing whether that’s the case or not.”

Murray said First Nations communities will not be exempt from the taxes, but added that governments should help communities using fossil fuels seek alternate resources to generate electricity.

“That’s very expensive to bring in that diesel and it’s very polluting,” she said. “I believe the province has made a commitment to assist that dependency on diesel.”

The “Green Shift” also proposes a series of tax cuts that could balance the additional revenues brought in by the carbon tax. Those cuts would include a reduction on the lowest income tax rate, from 15 per cent to 13.5 per cent, which the Liberals call a “10 per cent” reduction. Tax rates for middle class income earners would also be cut. There would also be a number of tax credits, such as an annual “Green Rural Credit,” which will give $150 up front to rural Canadians who file taxes.

That, too, has Strahl fuming about the potential impact on First Nations communities.

“If you live and work on a reserve you don’t pay tax, so there’s no way to get a rebate,” he said. “There’s no way to be part of the so-called ‘shift.’”

Aside from his concerns about how the plan will affect First Nations communities, Strahl said the “Green Shift” will impact people in rural communities who have little choice other than to maintain the consumption habits they already use.

“What are we going to say to farmers, carpool out to the fields?” he said.

When asked what people can do to use fewer fossil fuels, Strahl said people’s habits are already changing due to rising gas prices.

“I parked my pickup six months ago, I’m driving the Jetta, I’ve already changed my habits,” he said. “I don’t need anybody and any carbon tax to make me do that.”

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