Reduce local asthma

Federal MP candidate Adriana Mugnatto-Hamu introductory postcardExplaining my introductory postcard: “Reduce local asthma with a carbon price and give the money raised back to you”

The health benefits of carbon pricing

Carbon pricing is intended to drive down our carbon emissions to protect the planet from global warming.  But it has some really good incidental side effects as well.  Wherever fossil fuels are burned, not only do they emit carbon dioxide, but also nitrous oxides, sulphur compounds, trace metals and fine particulates.  Many of these have nasty health effects that we feel long before the climate effects kick in.  So reducing the burning of fossil fuels helps save the planet in the long term, but also protects our health much more immediately.

Please note that this is not the Green Party’s health care position.  We are committed to a fully public health care system for all.  Former Green Party of Canada leader Jim Harris famously stated in 2005 that he would invoke the notwithstanding clause if necessary to stop the funding of private clinics in some provinces.  However, we recognize the threat that spiraling health care costs poses to our health care system.  For this reason and simply because illness is horrible even when health care costs are fully paid, we need to do everything we can to reduce preventable diseases such as most cancers, respiratory illnesses and heart diseases.  Carbon pricing is a small step in helping us do that.

The source of asthma in Toronto-Danforth

In Toronto-Danforth, we have a particular problem with asthma that would be tremendously alleviated with a carbon tax.  Toronto has the highest asthma rates in the country and a health study funded by the City of Toronto concluded that South Riverdale in particular had a disproportionately high rate of respiratory illness within this city.  The reasons suggested for this dubious distinction are mixed.  One part of the reason is that Toronto as a whole gets the plumes of gases from Ohio-based coal fired generating facilities.  Another part of the reason is that big cities burn a lot of fuel.  But the reason South Riverdale stands out from the downtown core is attributed to the prevailing westerly winds that deliver the full load of fumes from Don Valley Parkway traffic directly into the lungs of our kids.  Anything that reduces traffic and congestion on the DVP will literally be a breath of fresh air.  It will save lives.

The benefits of an economy-wide revenue neutral mechanism

That’s why a carbon price that attacks all emissions — factories, heating, power generation and gas in the tank, is critical for our health.  Cap and Trade systems that are restricted to just the industrial sector are more expensive, less fair, less effective and would have almost no effect on smog in Toronto-Danforth.

The Green Party has always advocated a revenue-neutral mechanism for pricing carbon.  This demonstrates that carbon pricing is not intended as a tax grab.  Carbon taxes and auctions work by making high-carbon activities more expensive relative to low-carbon activities.  The objective of a carbon price is to drive down emissions, not to generate new government income.  The money collected can be returned wholesale to the population, as the Green Party intends to do.

The benefits to Toronto-Danforth

Carbon pricing will be immensely beneficial to Toronto-Danforth.  As a riding, we are low carbon emitters.  Many of us bike to work or take advantage of the superb transit connections.  For many of us, these are an important part of the reason we chose to live here.  So our reward for making wise choices will be a relatively small increase in costs, more than offset by the refund most of us will get from carbon pricing.

And most importantly, our kids will breathe easier.

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