Les Whittington, The Toronto Star
May 16, 2008 04:30 AM
Liberal Leader StÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â©phane Dion began rolling out his politically risky carbon tax plan yesterday with a carrot-and-stick theme that he hopes will blunt Canadians’ objections to higher fuel costs.
At the heart of the wide-ranging environmental package are hard-to-sell tax increases that will drive up the cost of heating a home with natural gas, oil or electricity from coal-fired plants. The Liberals say their plan would not raise gasoline prices, which are already subject to a federal excise tax.
Details of the plan will not be out for several weeks, but the proposed measures could increase Ottawa’s tax take by an estimated $12 billion a year, according to economists.
But the Liberals are promising to transfer every penny raised by higher energy taxes back to individual and corporate taxpayers in the form of income tax reductions, incentives for conservation and support for low-income earners.
It’s a plan “that’s good for your wallet and good for the planet,” Dion told a lunchtime business audience in Toronto.
“We must create competitive advantages by lowering taxes on things we want more of — income, (business) innovation, savings and investment.
“And we must shift those taxes towards the things we want less of — pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, smog and waste,” he explained. “And, in doing so, we will be able to help the middle class and lift many Canadians out of poverty so they can offer all of their talents and skills to the nation.”
Liberals MPs say one of their chief concerns is the bruising impact that higher energy taxes would have on the pocketbooks of middle-class and low-income Canadians already grappling with skyrocketing gas prices.