Ontario NDP joining Jack Layton to help roast the planet and hurt the poor

About a week after the election, I wrote what I worried might be too strident a post and finally published it now.  Someone has to hold the NDP accountable.  Their climate policy is possibly the worst of all parties, as they continually find creative new ways to subsidize fossil fuels.

Stephen Harper was elected after years of lukewarm Liberal attempts to bring down emissions and immediately made things a whole lot worse, both through dismantling the few positive steps taken by Chretien and Martin, and by setting a very negative tack in international negotiations.  But the one thing that Harper has been dragged kicking and screaming into is a commitment to phase out perverse fossil fuel subsidies.

Nationally, Jack Layton just ran a campaign focusing on introducing a new fossil fuel subsidy – the stripping of HST from home heating fuels.  This follows in the wake of a platform of perverse fossil fuel subsidies in every national NDP platform since at least 2004.  Now Ontario NDP leader Andrea Horvath has announced that she will set a cap on gasoline prices, effectively introducing yet another perverse subsidy.

Not only would their policy help to roast the planet, which is currently heading for a die-off of 90% of humanity in the second half of this century, it is also a policy that will benefit the wealthiest and most polluting most while stripping precious funding from government programmes that could instead benefit those who really need help to get past fossil fuel addiction.

We know what happens to countries that subsidize fossil fuels.  That is the case of many oil-producing nations which can offer fuels at a discount to their citizens.  As long as production is growing, the fossil fuel subsidies help advance general welfare.  But it comes at a terrible cost of eviscerating other local industries and creating a dangerous dependence on declining resources.  This is known as Dutch Disease.  As the fuels begin to run dry and no government can subsidize imports at will, the economy collapses and the poorest are hit even harder.

A Better Solution

I do not deny that low-income Canadians are being hit hard by rising fuel prices.  Nor do I think we should ignore this problem.  It demands solutions.  We need to ensure that Canadians can afford to stay warm and get to work while simultaneously putting the economic drivers in place to help them overcome their dependence on declining fuels.  Ironically, one of the best ways to accomplish this is by raising the price on fossil fuels even further with fuel taxes, and then distributing the proceeds from these taxes in such a way that the low income Canadians benefit most.  Done right, low-income Canadians should find themselves with more money in their pockets at the end.  Then we simultaneously encourage people to invest in better long-term solutions while giving them the tools to do so.

Those developed countries with the highest fuel taxes (like Germany and Norway) have better income distribution and less critical dependency on fossil fuels that keeps people in poverty.  To suggest that subsidizing fuels is way to fight poverty is either cynical or ignorant.  The NDP should be ashamed of themselves.

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