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Weighing the pros and cons of increasing fuel taxes

Drivers await higher carbon and provincial gas taxes
On April 1, Alberta drivers will see higher gasoline prices when the federal carbon tax and the provincial gas tax increase. (File photo by The Associated Press)

Albertans may cringe at the thought of the carbon and provincial fuel taxes increasing on April 1, but there are ways to pay less tax, says a Red Deer Polytechnic instructor.

Dustin Quirk, at the Donald School of Business, Science and Computing, said consumers and businesses could consider investing in more energy-efficient products and changing their behaviours to reduce tax expenses. For example, when a household or business reduces its energy consumption, not only is its utility bill lower, but it also pays less carbon tax.

And don’t forget the carbon tax rebates, he added.

“From a cost-of-living perspective, the vast majority of consumers receive more in carbon tax rebates than they pay in carbon tax. This means that if the carbon tax was axed, most people would be financially worse off than they are now,” said Quirk, in a statement.

He said while no one likes paying taxes, from an economic perspective the carbon tax is not that bad of a policy instrument to help Canada reduce carbon emissions to meet its climate change goals.

“The carbon tax does indeed work. A study released earlier this week from the Canadian Climate Institute showed that consumer carbon taxes and industrial pricing on carbon are reducing Canada’s emissions. It makes sense that as prices go up, we buy less and conserve.”

There are also environmental benefits.

“I would imagine that most Albertans wouldn’t mind paying a few more dollars at the pump if it meant that we saw fewer days of wildfire smoke in the summer or having to deal with water restrictions due to climate change related droughts.”

With the carbon tax increasing by three per cent, and the provincial fuel tax by four per cent, the cost of filling up at the pumps will be about $3 to $5 more for the average driver.

“It is interesting that while the provincial government has been heavily criticizing the federal government’s carbon tax increase as hurting Albertans and making life less affordable, the province is still implementing an increase to the provincial fuel tax, which will also make life more expensive for Alberta’s drivers,” Quirk said.

In a Facebook post, Red Deer-Lacombe MP Blaine Calkins said the cost of everything is going up because the carbon tax is on everything, and he was proud to participate in the non-confidence vote held Thursday on the carbon price.

“Canadians coast to coast to coast are suffering from the cost of living. Can’t afford the cost of food. Can’t afford to pay their mortgages. Can’t afford to put fuel in their cars, Calkins said.

“Justin Trudeau’s telling everyone they’re getting more back then they’re paying. But our fridges, our cupboards, and our bank accounts say otherwise.”

Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault has said that the Tories are falsely linking the carbon tax to inflation, ignoring the existence of rebates and failing to propose a plan that recognizes the cost of climate change.

He said that according to Environment Canada analysts, carbon pricing will account for about one-third of emissions reduction in Canada by 2030.

That amounts to about 75 million tonnes of greenhouse gases, which is what 17 million passenger vehicles emit in a year.

— with files from The Canadian Press