Is it a carbon tax or a carbon fine?

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Pradip Rodrigues

Starting 2019, Ontarians along with residents of Saskatchewan, Manitoba and New Brunswick, the recalcitrant provinces opposing the federal carbon tax will receive an average of $300 annually to offset the carbon tax.

Like most taxes levied on Canadians, this is not a tax paid directly by consumers to the government. The federal government will impose the tax on fuel and production and distribution companies for example natural gas providers like Enbridge, who will in turn happily pass it on to customers. So here comes the $300 cheque that has been cut for the average family that will offset these added costs. Now in the years to come, the carbon tax will increase and it isn’t clear if future governments will continue to raise the refund amount.

To the lay person this doesn’t seem so much as a tax on polluters but really a tax on all Canadians because the polluters aren’t absorbing the cost but is passing it on to us leaving their profits and bottom line more or less in good shape.

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But cleverly the federal Liberals aren’t calling taxpayers polluters or accusing us all of patronizing companies responsible for polluting the environment. They aren’t calling for us to boycott power companies, oil companies and a slew of other polluters who exist in order to satisfy our demands for consumer products and other goods that help us maintain a good standard of living.

The real polluter is not the power company or the manufacturing unit belching out noxious fumes into the air. We are responsible.

The thing is that there are millions of Canadians who by circumstances or design who have a very small carbon footprint. They include many millennials who live in small apartments or homes, consume little and use public transit. On the other hand you have the wealthy who aspire to own McMansions, drive large SUVs and jetset around the globe. I don’t know why they should even be getting a tax rebate from the government when a hefty fine is in order. After all isn’t their consumptive lifestyle responsible for causing climate change? Those Canadians who consume little and have a really small carbon footprint aren’t rewarded for their environmental-friendly lifestyle. Perhaps every household or individual should be assessed by the size of their carbon footprint and taxed or fined accordingly.

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Fines should be proportionate to income

Perhaps I’m mistaken but I tend to believe that many individuals ticketed for rash driving or generally break the law tend to be rich and drive late model luxury vehicles. The fear of getting ticketed or their insurance premium going up doesn’t prompt them to change their ways because they are rich and can afford the fine. On the other hand, a middle-class individual living on a tight budget would be terrified of traffic infractions that would cause his premiums to rise, this is a powerful reason to obey the rules of the road.

In north America and most of the world, a millionaire and a pauper would get fined the same amount but it disproportionately hurts a low earner.

Perhaps it is time to consider the way Finland fines its errant citizens. A fine is calculated according to the estimated amount of spending money a Finn has for one day. It is then divided by two—that amount is the fine levied. Then, based on the severity of the infraction, the system has rules for how many days the offender must go without that money. Going about 15 mph over the speed limit gets you a multiplier of 12 days, and going 25 mph over carries a 22-day multiplier.

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Traffic fines, as well as fines for shoplifting and violating securities-exchange laws, are assessed based on a person’s earnings. Here is one example of how fines are designed to deter and cause pain. In 2002, a Nokia executive was fined the equivalent of $103,000 for going 45 in a 30 zone on his motorcycle based on his high income. On the other hand, someone struggling to make ends meet would also be fined in proportion of his income.

Perhaps such a system of fines would be more effective and fair. -CINEWS

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