Cities vote against carbon tax hike

Civic leaders weigh in on tax policy at UBCM, reject resumption of carbon tax increases

Municipal leaders have decided against asking the province to resume regular increases in B.C.’s carbon tax in the name of fighting climate change.

Delegates at the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention narrowly defeated the motion from New Westminster on Thursday, with 52.4 per cent voting no on Thursday.

The tax has been frozen at $30 per tonne of carbon dioxide emissions since 2012 – equivalent to about seven cents a litre on gasoline. The tax also applies to natural gas, coal and other fossil fuels.

The proposal called for increases of $5 per tonne each year for five years, followed by a review. It also urged the province to break from its policy of making the tax revenue-neutral and use the extra revenue to support emission-reduction projects.

“It’s a sure-fire way to create a balance between the cost of renewables and the cost of carbon,” said Vancouver Coun. Adriane Carr, who warned this summer’s extreme drought and smoke from forest fires will be “our new future.”

But Prince Rupert Coun. Barry Cunningham cautioned a major increase in carbon tax would unfairly drive up the cost of living in northern B.C.

“If you live up north, everything is trucked up there,” he said. “This would add a lot to all our food and everything else that’s trucked up.”

Other delegates argued the carbon tax should go up by more than $5 a year and it should be expanded to target untaxed carbon emissions sources, such as methane escaping from landfills and fugitive emissions from LNG production and other industrial activity.

Mission Mayor Randy Hawes, a former B.C. Liberal MLA, said any hike in the carbon tax should continue to be dedicated to personal and corporate income tax cuts.

B.C.’s carbon tax was introduced in 2008 and attracted international interest as a potential model for reducing emissions.

A climate leadership team appointed this year by the province is to advise the government on further steps for cutting emissions.

Several demands for funding and tax policy changes did pass at UBCM.

Delegates voted to urge the province to increase its corporate income tax rate by one per cent and send the extra revenue to local governments.

Some called that idea dangerous, but advocates said municipalities are too dependent on property taxes and need an extra revenue source to rebuild infrastructure.

Civic leaders also voted to urge the province to create a seismic upgrading fund by reallocating $190 million per year of the $450 million in tax it collects on property and vehicle insurance premiums.

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