Following a Canada-wide summer of climate change induced hell, where record rainfalls literally washed people to their deaths, the community of Enterprise was burned to the ground and widespread evacuations from wildfires, floods and smoke displaced tens of thousands of people, it’s amazing how quickly we normalized all that to turn our attention back to the real monster facing Canadians — the carbon tax.
A brainchild of conservative economics, carbon taxes were initially devised to avoid forcing major requirements of industry using the science of Behavioural Economics. For the uneducated, this is the science of persuasion used in advertising, and increasingly in politics, and is what compels you to buy a larger truck than you need and feel like you’re a totally independent person for doing it. It’s what compels people to take up smoking, to supersize their already calorie-rich fast food orders and fill their closets with clothing they never wear. More recently, software companies have discovered they can rent out their programs instead of outright selling them and video game companies now sell you the initial game and then sell you additional downloadable content.
With consumers being led around like a cat following a laser pointer, it seemed reasonable these same marketing methods could also be used to change human habits for the better. Hence by artificially raising the price of fuel, consumers and businesses would naturally flow to the cheaper, greener options.
After a decade of trying, I think it’s safe to say the theory has been disproven. Around here, full ton trucks with empty cargo beds idle empty in perfectly comfortable weather. They could pay less carbon tax if they turned their vehicles off. They just… don’t.
Behavioural Economics appears to only work for compelling humans into self destructive decisions. I predict the carbon tax will be a memory by the time the next federal election rolls around as the Liberals try to recover lost support. Playing carrot and stick with voters doesn’t work because voters are holding the stick.
Ironically, the cost of living will continue to rise as once-a-century-disasters pile up every year, disrupting supply and food chains across Earth. These costs will still overwhelmingly affect lower income earners, who are limited in both mobility and financial options.
Which leaves us with the problem of climate change, which continues to get worse and more expensive as we pither about. Not only do we have to rapidly shift to renewables to slash our emissions, we have to contend with mass evacuations every year. Ottawa is going to need revenue to pay for this or accept massive increases to national debt.
So where do we get this money?
Following the Second World War, the rebuilding of North America was financed largely by income taxes on top earners, who had made a fortune supplying the war effort. Rates in excess of 90 per cent were common. Instead of taxing the business, they taxed the CEOs. But as years waned by, these tax rates began to drop before voters decided to do away with them altogether in the 1980s.
Consequentially, the burden of maintaining services fell to the middle and working classes, whose wages have not changed much ever since. As this represents the majority of our population, subsequent election results demonstrate workers are largely okay with this. They’ve had dozens of opportunities to change things over the last 50 years and have voted for the status-quo every time.
Top earners, on the other hand, have done wonders with their additional wealth, using it for many interesting projects — submarines, spaceships, adventurous expeditions, multiple palaces and safe havens to hide their gold hordes, but the only thing that’s trickled down has been their tax burden.
As the primary benefactors of carbon-emitting industries causing climate change, it could be argued top-earners bear a larger responsibility for the climate crisis than the low-income earners who have to date largely born the weight of global warming on their shoulders. And they carry the least risk — if one place becomes unliveable, they’ll simply fly somewhere else and build a new home there.
It’s time voters made Canada’s ultra-wealthy share the burden of climate change.