Thursday, August 28, 2008

Will They or Won't They?

Brison, Dion confusing their Green Shift message

One of the key promises surrounding the Liberal party's "Green Shift" carbon tax plan is that it will not levy additional taxes on energy.

Yet Liberal leader Stephane Dion and Scott Brison (one of the architects of the Green Shift) seem to have differing opinions on the matter.

As reported by the Halifax Chronicle Herald, in June Brison told the paper's editorial board that the Liberal party carbon tax would lead to higher electricity costs for Nova Scotians because of the additional costs a carbon tax would impose on the production and purchase of coal.

"A Dion government would sit down with the provincial government and engage both the government of Nova Scotia and Nova Scotia Power in a constructive discussion on how to help Nova Scotia (make the) green shift, and we would invest in it," Brison promised.

However, since then Dion has helpfully assisted mr Brison in doing an abrupt about-face on the matter: there will be no side deals with provinces.

Of course, Brison's admission to the Chronicle Herald editorial board raises some rather important questions about the proposed Liberal policy.

Namely, if the Green Shift will lead to higher electricity prices due to the increased cost of coal, how can we expect that the Green Shift won't lead to higher gasoline prices due to the increased cost of oil?

Of course it will. And while the Liberals can insist their plan won't apply a new tax directly to gasoline, it certainly would inflate the cost of gasoline by applying additional costs (or, as the Liberals describe it, "shift the tax burden") to the production of fossil fuels).

The companies producing and refining petroleum certainly won't absorb all of that additional tax without passing the cost along to the consumer. Unfortuantely for the consumer, to do so these companies would be breaching their responsibility to the their shareholders. The lost profit could actually result in these companies being sued by their shareholders.

Considering that the largest portion of investment capital in the world today is controlled by various retirment funds, for these companies to breach their responsibility to their shareholders would hurt many, many average Canadians.

In other words, Canadians would pay for the Green Shift, one way or the other.

Of course, the less said by Scott Brison about these shortcomings of the Green Shift, the better -- at least if you're Stephane Dion. It's better for Brison not to talk about the inevitable higher costs of energy (and, through it, the higher costs of everything else) at all than to talk about solutions to such a problem.

Thus the about face -- one not terribly atypical of Brison.

"This is really what I would call quite predictable from Mr. Brison. He states a position; then it changes, he pouts and then he goes personal and attacks people as he’s doing now with the premier," remarked deputy Prime Minister Peter MacKay.

These are the questions the Liberal party has to answer about the so-called Green Shift: will the Liberal party admit that it will lead to higher energy costs -- costs that will find their way to consumers -- or won't they?

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