The B.C. NDP will campaign on a pledge to increase B.C.'s carbon tax on fuels earlier than the B.C. Liberals, and send out "climate action rebate cheques" to eight out of 10 taxpayers to offset their costs.
NDP leader John Horgan announced the framework of his carbon tax plan in Vancouver Thursday. To meet Ottawa's target of $50 per tonne of carbon dioxide emissions by 2022, an NDP government would increase B.C.'s existing $30-per-tonne rate by $6 in 2020 and $7 in each of the next two years. Carbon tax currently adds about seven cents to the price of a litre of gasoline, and at $50 a tonne it will add 12 cents.
Premier Christy Clark's plan to meet the $50 level, made mandatory for all provinces by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau last year, is to wait until other provinces reach the $30 level and then increase the rate to $50 by 2022.
The BC Liberal carbon tax was introduced in 2008, with legislation requiring it to be revenue neutral to the government through reduced personal and business income taxes. Horgan said reductions to personal income tax would remain, and his plan also retains carbon tax credits for people in rural areas with longer traveling distances.
Rebate cheques would go out at the beginning of each year, with 80 per cent of taxpayers getting carbon tax back instead of 40 per cent under the current system, Horgan said.
Rebate cheques for $100 were sent out to almost everyone in B.C. by the government of former premier Gordon Campbell when the carbon tax was launched, including 18,000 people who had either died or moved out of B.C. in 2007.
Horgan said part of the increased carbon tax revenue will be used for transit, energy efficiency upgrades and investments in clean technology.
Environment Minister Mary Polak issued a statement calling Horgan's plan a "cash grab for NDP pet projects, like making Northern and Interior residents pay for transit in the Lower Mainland."
In a prelude to debates leading up to the May 9 provincial election, Horgan said the current carbon tax plan has led to increasing B.C.'s greenhouse gas emissions, while his program would reduce them.
B.C. Green Party leader Andrew Weaver said neither the NDP nor the BC Liberal plan will reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
They are "based around federal measures that were designed to achieve targets that were set by Stephen Harper," Weaver said. "Their plan will not reduce carbon emissions if they also intend to support the LNG industry."