In Our Words: How to lessen the impact of a carbon tax

I’m in a weird spot with one of Canada’s current forefront issues – I support environmentally friendly policies, but I can’t support a carbon tax because it stands to have a disproportionate impact on northerners. I think I may have a solution for that. Read on.

Before, when I moved to the city for an education, a carbon tax made sense. When the longest drive you ever have to do is 30 minutes and most of it is spent in traffic, paying a small fee for your emissions is hardly the end of the world. If I’d been born and raised in a major centre, I’m sure I’d be supportive of it.

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However, in its current form, a carbon tax, especially levied in the form of an additional fuel tax, will cause northerners hardship at a time when prices are increasing and wages aren’t. In the north, long car and truck rides are a way of life, a necessity. There is no other option: either drive or stay isolated.

It’s bad enough that services once thought to be a given in Flin Flon are moving away, that jobs and families may begin leaving the area within the next two to three years, that wages have remained mostly stagnant while rent and prices for basics like groceries have risen, that Flin Flon has been in a state of net migration for more than 50 years straight, that gas prices are somehow more than a dime per litre more expensive here than they are in The Pas just an hour-and-a-half away, that infrastructure is starting to age, that anyone looking for advanced medical care has to either drive eight hours, hop on a bus leaving either way too late or way too early or break the bank for a plane ride - now there’s another hurdle?

But anyway, enough of the whining and moaning. People do that enough when it comes to taxes, and honestly, it gets old fast. Let’s propose something that could actually help the north.

My solution to the carbon tax issue, as it relates to northern living, is this: provide a rebate, or even an outright exemption, for people living in prescribed northern and intermediate zones.

Basically, places that would apply for the northern resident deduction already – that’s line 255 on your tax return, and yes, if you live in Flin Flon, you can check that box for some money back – would get some much-needed economic relief. Places like Flin Flon, Snow Lake and other nearby communities in Manitoba and Saskatchewan would benefit.

That does two things immediately. Residents would save a little money, which is always nice. Second – and perhaps most importantly – this could attract industrial projects to the north, leaning heavily on the lack of tax on transport and other activities. At a time when the very future of Flin Flon’s economy is unknown, every little bit can help.

I support laws that protect the environment and I’m a big believer that we need to do something drastic. I support encouraging widespread use of renewable energy. Some day - unlikely to be soon, granted, but someday - I’d love to see a world full of environmentally conscious decision-making, with an electric car in every garage, a windmill or a solar array on every roof and a cozy winter jacket made from recycled old plastic in every closet. That sounds great. Yeah, sorting recycling can be irritating - so what? Inconvenience now can be a good thing later.

I’m not opposed to a fuel tax because I don’t believe it would be effective. I’m opposed to it because it would make life even harder on northerners, but there’s a way to change that – if someone’s willing to make the leap.

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