B.C. mayors push for steady carbon tax hikes

Metro Vancouver regional district criticizes province for failing to deliver detailed climate plan on time

The B.C. government is facing fresh calls from municipal leaders to steadily increase the carbon tax – as well as improve support for green building practices and public transit – as the province draws up a revamped climate leadership plan.

Friday is the deadline for comments on the government’s direction so far and a group of eight local government representatives, including mayors from North Vancouver, Dawson Creek and Smithers, have urged annual carbon tax hikes of up to $15 per tonne, equivalent to an extra three cents per litre of gasoline.

“The most important step the province can take is a renewed plan for carbon tax increases,” said North Vancouver City Mayor Darrell Mussatto, a member of the B.C. Mayors Climate Leadership Council.

The group of cities said a chunk of carbon tax revenue as well as road pricing could fund public transit, and cycling and walking infrastructure.

Other proposals include a doubling of current incentives for electric vehicles, and to allow cities to apply a tougher local building code with much more ambitious energy efficiency standards.

The carbon tax has been frozen since 2013 at $30 a tonne since Christy Clark replaced Gordon Campbell as premier. It works out to 6.7 cents per litre of gas, with equivalent amounts on other fuels, including natural gas.

The government’s Climate Leadership Team advisors have recommended a one-third increase in the carbon tax to $40 in 2018 – after the next provincial election – with annual increases continuing after that.

The Metro Vancouver board has adopted its own response to the province’s consultation.

The regional district is critical of the government’s failure to release a draft climate plan with more policy detail before now – it was originally promised by late 2015.

A Metro report says the material released by the government includes the climate leadership team’s recommendations “but does not provide detailed policies that would constitute an effective and meaningful plan.”

Nor is there expected to be any further chance for local governments to help shape the final plan before it is released.

Metro endorses steady carbon tax hikes as well as other strategies to support low- or zero-emission vehicles and buildings, and policies to support walking, cycling and transit use.

The regional district also argues the leadership team recommendations don’t yet go far enough in helping cities adapt to the impacts of climate change.

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