The complications of carbon taxes across Canada

Deadlines can be stressful, calendars quizzical, and this country is a combination of the two – and a writer’s deadline can result in sentences like the one you just read!
Searching for a topical topic caused my gaze to fall on my desk calendar that lists holidays, or obscure days of note on any given month. Being a curious calendeer, or one who calendizes (don’t even try to look those up), I flipped back to February and happened to see that the 15th was a Civic Holiday, also known as Family Day, but only six of the ten provinces recognize or celebrate their families.
What a country!
So if we can’t agree on the basic building blocks of our society – that being you, I, and all of us – then it’s no surprise that questions of economic survival are left to childish bickering with no paternal guidance in the person of the country’s linchpin, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Right now the country looks like a Wiley Coyote/Roadrunner cartoon episode with the oil dependent west dueling it out with the liberal heavy, dollar light Quebec/Ontario consortium.
In the east, the Ontario government, under the, “Hey! Follow me up the garden path!” leadership of Kathleen Wynne, announced a cap-and-trade carbon program (or C-Tax as I call it), that is nothing but a “carbon” copy of the current Quebec system.
The net result is that the highest gasoline prices in the country are found in Montreal and Vancouver, the latter of which has also blessed the consumer with a C-Tax. In my opinion a carbon tax on gasoline will have no effect on demand, as in the vast majority of municipalities there is no option in the form of an efficient or even existent public transit.
The real problem with a carbon tax is with the pricing of diesel, because it is diesel that delivers the manufactured goods, commodities, fruits, and vegetables to the consumer. The transportation sector runs on razor thin margins as it is, and faces constant resistance to increases in fuel surcharges, which in turn are based on the rack prices as set by the oil industry.
The Quebec cap-and-trade carbon tax is not a separate item on the customer’s invoice, but it is built into the rack prices and therefore subject to the magic of ad valorem since GST/HST is a percentage added as the last multiplier in the final invoice.
Ontario consumers and those in provinces about to be hit with the C-Tax – beware.
The Montreal diesel rack today is $0.598/L while the C-Tax free Toronto rack is $0.046/L lower at $0.552/L.
An announced cap-and-trade increase of $0.053/L, when GST/HST is added, means an increase of $0.06/L. In B.C. the C-Tax is a flat rate added to the invoice, not the Quebec/Ontario moving target that is subject not only to the ad valorem but also to change without notice, for no legitimate reason I venture to say.
If provincial C-Tax confusion wasn’t enough, Justin (of the peace) Trudeau is at the time of this report conducting a carbon strategy meeting with provincial leaders, and if he has his way I suspect there will be a national C-Tax proposed this week before his selfie marathon with Barack Obama next week.
My advice to the Prime Minister is to bring a good selfie stick or a better photographer, because you need a sharp focus – and his lens is cloudy and sunny days aren’t helping him or us.
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Roger McKnight is the Chief Petroleum Analyst with En-Pro International Inc.
Roger has over 25 years experience in the oil industry, and has held senior marketing management positions responsible for national and international accounts. He is the originator of the card lock concept of marketing on-road diesel that is now the predominant purchase method of diesel in Canada. Roger's knowledge of the oil industry in North America, and pricing structures has resulted in his expertise being sought as a commentator by local, national, and international media. Roger is a regular guest on radio and television programs, and he is quoted regularly in newspapers and magazines across Canada.

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