Thursday, August 28, 2008


Everybody wants to save the environment these days. People are going out in droves to purchase "environmentally friendly" products, just because they are labeled "green" or even decorated with pretty green packaging. A marketing ploy, if you ask me ... as at least one environmental research group determined that many of these "environmentally friendly" products are in fact no better than the products they are replacing.

Nevertheless, politicians are picking up from the "green" movement in waves. We even have a Green Party, in addition to all the other Parliamentary noise that some people call political parties. All of them in some sense are now jumping on the environmental bandwagon. In return for the Conservative's repudiation of Kyoto, they want to promise different incentives for people who go "green": tax breaks for people that use the bus, rebates for people who buy a hybrid car, refunds for people that do "green" renovations to their homes, etc.

The Liberals under the leadership of Stephane Dion now want to introduce a carbon tax, copying their right wing cousins in British Columbia who also jumped on a similar bandwagon about a year ago. The NDP has a foggy plan to "make polluters pay"; however that gets implemented, I supposed that will all come out in the wash. However, because Dion seems to be dragging people over to the Liberals' side with his proposed carbon tax, all the other parties decided to oppose it. To me, I am uncertain because there are too many unanswered questions about it ... henceforth, virtually all of these policies have unanswered questions until the party in question gets elected and does even more to screw things up than they already are. I feel the carbon tax might just fit that bill, if there ever was one.

A carbon tax is supposed to tax consumption, as opposed to income. The more one consumes, the more one will have to pay. Henceforth, this is not some vague 'pie in the sky' promise to tax people who are doing the pollution, but a way of making consumers pay MORE to use almost anything, eat most foods, heat their homes, drive their cars, etc. Those crazy people that protest gas price hikes will really be in a frenzy with the proposed carbon tax, as the cost of fuel will be increased even more and as such, any goods that are transported this way.

Hey, Dion, have you ever heard of this term called "energy poverty"? Obviously not, or he would have thought this through before pushing for the same. His only answer to this concern is to provide a deep income tax cut in return for raising the prices on almost anything we use and the food that we eat. The key issue here is that low-income and poor people do not pay a lot of income taxes, so an income tax cut for this group is useless to them as they get hit with higher and higher prices.

Since the provincial Liberals got into power in Ontario, the price of heating fuels and electricity more than doubled for the average consumer, while we all had to listen to endless platitudes about how we can buy "energy efficient" appliances, insulate our home, use less, etc. to cut our costs ... but, of course, Dalton McGuinty and his gang also forgot one thing: low-income people do not have the capital to purchase "energy efficient" appliances, re-insulate their homes or do other "green" changes to their homes to save money -- and this is just for the homeowners. At the same time, nobody gets any assistance in paying their skyrocketing bills either, as energy costs eat up more and more of our meagre incomes.

Many tenants are forced to pay their own utilities, yet they cannot force their landlords to do the above changes and are in turn, stuck paying higher and higher costs just to keep a roof over their heads. If they don't pay their own utilities, the Landlord and Tenant Board will only be too pleased to grant an above guideline increase to landlords stuck with paying higher costs just the same. It has already gotten bad here in Ontario WITHOUT a carbon tax to go with it, so why do we want to pay higher prices for the same thing? Is the government going to give low-income people a substantial increase in wages and social assistance? I doubt it.

For example, my utilities and bills are more than my monthly mortgage and property taxes combined. By the time I finish paying for my mortgage, taxes, utilities and other related housing bills, I am broke. This is the same Premier who promises to help small businesses and to turn around this bad economy. Yeah, right. When I am busy paying more and more for utilities, I have even less left to cover "discretionary" expenses. So, people like me and many thousands more alike, have to apologize to the small business community because we don't have any "discretionary" income left. I suppose that is okay, as this government wants everybody on welfare anyways.

Income taxes don't interest most low-income, poor and even most middle class people ... taxes have been cut and cut and cut over the past couple of decades and all we have seen are cuts to public services in return. In return for the last round of income tax cuts, people have found themselves out of pocket more at the doctor's, at the pharmacy, at the optometrist and even paying for more municipal services that used to be provided for free. The last I checked, our educational system is also paid for through taxes, but due to the 'death by a thousand cuts' over the past decade and a half, parents are expected to pay for more and more for their children's education, including basic items such as textbooks and class supplies. If you can't afford them, you are supposed to go crying poor to the school so some damned charity can look after you ... something that is supposed to be confidential, but we all know how confidential these things are when your children's peers begin to notice things, regardless of how much "help" they get.

So, now the air we breathe is going to be taxed as well? I suppose the low-income families can "cut back" by not turning on their heat in the middle of January or walking across town back and forth each day because they could no longer afford the bus and certainly cannot afford a car! In the summer, the poor and low-income are supposed to swelter in the heat, regardless of how it makes them feel. Only the rich deserve any comfort.

So, will this carbon tax work? Absolutely not! Think of it yourself. If you are presently in a financially comfortable position -- maybe not rich, but at least middle class -- you may grumble about the price of gas, or the increased cost of hydro, but you still pay it, right? You can still pay these bills without having to forgo some other luxury like food, for example. Therefore, you probably do not feel a great need to cut back or get "energy efficient" appliances (unless you can be convinced of finding a deal or getting enough of a rebate to 'pull' you in that direction). You will just keep right on using your dishwasher, your washer and dryer and drive your SUV to the corner store, as long as the costs don't go too high ...

... and that's exactly what will happen. People will pay this carbon tax as the cost of doing business. Wealthy people that have bigger homes, bigger cars and bigger bank accounts wouldn't care less if they had to pay a little more for heating their twelve mansions and their summer cottage by Algonquin Park. Even the middle class will continue to pay ... Some may cut back some, but not in a substantial way as to reduce their overall carbon footprint. For example, they may opt for a "staycation" as opposed to going to the cottage for three weeks in the summer. Low-income people have NOWHERE ELSE TO CUT BACK. More and more of them will have to choose to feed the family or pay their heating bills. Like, when are these well-intentioned politicians going to learn that what they propose does not work for the poor?

My guess is as good as any. First, the poor are rarely consulted about anything. Programs and services are created by people who will never need them. People paid to run these programs and services are well compensated and certainly will not want to see their programs cut for lack of effectiveness, so the incentive here is to "create" results, as opposed to producing them. These same people are the same folks clamouring for more tax cuts, thinking that only if they paid several thousands of dollars less a year in taxes, they can always give more to the food bank, the homeless shelter and soon, the charity hospitals once our health care is privatized enough to satisfy some of these right wingers.

One of my previous posts shows how the charitable sector is not created by and for the poor. Eighty percent of monies allocated to the poor benefit the "middle class" and the crumbs left over hardly help those intended to be served by the same. Those operating charities hardly ever ask those they serve what they need; they just impose ... and assume that what they do is "doing good" when in fact they are just perpetuating the poverty the person is in. I assume more people upon learning about the energy poverty that will be succumbing more and more families as a result of this carbon tax will assume more donations to the food bank will help ...

No, the poor want to be given a hand UP and then be left alone. It is so interesting when one or more of these right wingers ever have to go to the other side of tracks through "no fault of their own", they will finally discover the true effect of their earlier good intentions and why and how they went wrong. Before it is too late, Stephane Dion, talk to a few of us who can see through your sudden interest in the "environment" and challenge you to reduce poverty too ...

I want this issue to be one of the key election issues if there is a federal election held this fall, which it seems there will be because Stephen Harper appears to want to give up the ghost early instead of waiting until next year for the election date he originally promised. Oh well, life goes on.

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