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EDITORIAL: Cutting taxes comes with a cost

Tax reduction would have an effect on government programs and services
Conservative MP Kerry-Lynne Findlay, representative for South Surrey—White Rock, and Chief Opposition Whip visited Penticton on March 26 to spur local opposition to the federal carbon tax. (Brennan Phillips - Western News)

Vocal opposition to Canada’s carbon tax, evident at recent Conservative-led rallies in Penticton and across Canada, is easy to understand.

Taxes are seldom appreciated and any promises to bring tax relief tend to be welcomed.

The rally in Penticton addressed the most recent increase to the carbon tax, which is set to rise from $65 a tonne to $80 a tonne on April 1. The carbon tax is scheduled to increase by $15 a year until 2030, when it will reach $170 a tonne.

While these figures seem daunting, the effect of this year’s carbon tax increase is relatively small. It works out to an additional three cents per litre of fuel. For a 50-litre fuel tank, the cost of a fill would increase by $1.50.

If the entire carbon tax – not just the increase – were to be scrapped, the results would be more noticeable, but the effect would still be small when compared to typical household incomes and expenses. In B.C., which brought in a carbon tax under the former BC Liberals in 2008, the measure served to reduce carbon emissions and petroleum use exactly as intended as a climate change fighting program.

The federal carbon tax has seen a nationwide drop in emissions since it was adopted in 2019. If the tax were to be eliminated or reduced, how would climate change issues be addressed?

This factor is often overlooked in the calls to cut or eliminate the carbon tax.

Also overlooked or downplayed is the effect of tax reduction on government programs and services.

While some taxes are rebated back taxpayers, axes collected at the federal and provincial levels are used to fund health care, education, defense, justice, social services, transportation, infrastructure and more.

There is no way to reduce the tax load while increasing or even maintaining the existing level of services. In order to reduce the tax burden, some services would have to be reduced or cut entirely. Which ones would be considered expendable? One could argue that the present services provided by higher levels of governments in Canada puts unnecessary pressure on those who are financially strapped. However, if the latest carbon tax increase of three cents a litre adds a noticeable hardship, the issue is one of income levels and wages, not tax changes.

If tax relief is still seen as the preferred course of action, another question must be asked. Would private individuals be able to find more cost-effective ways to take care of the services provided at the government levels? Taxes are not well-loved. However, an emphasis on tax relief above all else has the potential to create its own set of difficult issues.

— Black Press