Bill Tieleman's 24 hours column
Tuesday July 15, 2008
No love for tax
By BILL TIELEMAN
I want to repeat: This tax will be 100 per cent revenue neutral."
- Former B.C. Finance Minister Carole Taylor on her carbon tax
British Columbians really hate the new carbon tax, they don't believe government claims it is "revenue neutral" and the $100 gift they received from Premier Gordon Campbell makes them even angrier, an exclusive poll for 24 hours shows.
An amazing 73 per cent of those polled say they simply do not believe the B.C. Liberal government when it says that the new 2.4 cents a litre tax on gas, diesel, heating and other fuel is revenue neutral.
And the research conducted for 24 hours by its pollster Strategic Communications also found that 71 per cent of those surveyed disagree with the government giving every British Columbians a one-time $100 "Climate Action Dividend" that will cost the province $440 million.
In fact, 56 per cent of respondents strongly disagreed with the dividend and 15 per cent somewhat disagreed, for a total of 71 per cent.
Only 9 per cent strongly agreed and another 15 per cent somewhat agreed with the $100 gift for a 24 per cent total, while 5 per cent either didn't know or had no opinion.
The results are a powerful rebuke to the government and a stunning reversal of fortune for Campbell since he announced the carbon tax in B.C.'s February budget to acclaim from environmental groups and eastern Canadian pundits.
The continuing and vehement opposition to the gas tax will also likely encourage the New Democratic Party to continue its campaign against the measure into the fall, when carbon taxes on oil and natural gas heating fuel will start being felt.
David Smith, Strategic Communications' senior research consultant, said the poll of 609 eligible voters should worry Campbell.
"Right now it seems they don't like anything about it," Smith said of British Columbians. "I'd be concerned if I was the provincial government."
Smith was somewhat surprised that the Climate Action Dividend was so deeply resented.
"Despite the fact that they're getting $100 back, they're not happy. People associate the $100 with the tax - they react strongly to anything connected to the tax," he said.
The poll was conducted from June 27 to July 7, while the tax came into effect on July 1, boosting gas prices to a record $1.52 a litre. The results have a margin of error of plus or minus 4 per cent, 19 times out of 20.
Smith also noted that the fact respondents reject the government's stated position that the carbon tax is revenue neutral should also trouble the B.C. Liberals.
"They don't believe the government," he said. "There's still time for it to change but it looks now like a hot-button issue."
Opposition to the gas tax can also be seen in the "Axe The BC Gas Tax" protest group I started on Facebook on June 10. As of yesterday the group had more than 9,400 members and continues to grow steadily despite the imposition of the tax.
The government seems to have completely ignored the fact that gas prices have gone up an astronomical 40 cents a litre since February's budget - or more than 16 times the amount of the carbon tax.
Given that the intent of the new gas tax is to reduce consumption through price increases, Campbell might have reasonably decided to drop or at least postpone the tax when the market forced prices to skyrocket.
But it appears the premier was more interested in reading the laudatory news releases of environmental groups and praise from columnists based in Ontario than figuring out what British Columbians thought about the tax.
Now the results are in and they aren't positive. The poll also shows that opposition to the Climate Action Dividend and disbelief about the government saying the carbon tax is revenue neutral are not concentrated in any one region or group of British Columbians.
While 73 per cent of all those polled across B.C. discounting revenue neutrality claims, the best the government could do was on Vancouver Island, where a still strong 63 per cent didn't believe it. But in northern B.C. a whopping 80 per cent believe the premier is telling whoppers about the tax.
And even 64 per cent of B.C.'s lowest income voters - those making less than $30,000 a year - said giving out the $100 Climate Action Dividend was wrong, with 51 per cent strongly disagreeing.
The polling results show more than anything else that imposing a new tax - no matter the reason, even with giving voters cash in the mail - is extremely dangerous for any political party.
If you doubt that, ask a former Canadian prime minister named Brian Mulroney about a little tax called the GST!
GAS TAX FACTS
- British Columbia's new carbon tax increased gasoline prices by 2.4 cents per litre on July 1 and will increase each year until it reaches an extra 7.25 cents per litre by 2012.
Statistics Norway reports that country's carbon tax - the highest in the world and five times higher than B.C.'s starting tax - has only reduced CO2 emissions by 2% since 1991.
- Federal Liberal leader Stephane Dion plans to propose a national carbon tax, which is supported by the Green Party and opposed by the Conservative and NDP.
- The tax applies to gasoline, diesel, heating oil, natural gas and propane.
- A one-time $100 "Climate Action Credit" cheque B.C. residents received from the government in June will cost $440 million.
- B.C. will raise an additional $1.8 billion over three years with the carbon tax.
- Most of the remaining extra revenue pays for tax cuts, with $415 million going to cut corporate taxes, $255 million to cut small-business taxes and tax cuts for individuals along with a low-income tax credit.
- Ontario, Alberta and Saskatchewan all rejected the idea of a carbon tax while Quebec has a 1 cent per litre tax that applies to petro companies directly.
1.The provincial government has sent every British Columbian a cheque for $100 as a one-time "Climate Action Dividend." The total cost of "Climate Action Dividend" is $440 million. This expenditure will be paid for by B.C.'s new carbon tax of 2.4 cents per litre of gasoline and other fuel. Do you agree or disagree with this expenditure? Is that strongly or somewhat?
2. The B.C. government is adding a new carbon tax of a 2.4 cent per litre on gasoline and other fuels to help reduce carbon emissions. The government says that the tax is "revenue neutral" because all of the additional revenue that the government will receive from the tax will be paid back to British Columbians through the $100 "Climate Action Dividend" and cuts to personal income tax. Do you believe the government when it says that the new carbon tax is revenue neutral?
73% DON'T BELIEVE