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Feds kill carbon tax recommendation

OTTAWA, Ont. - Canada's trucking industry breathed a collective sigh of relief in January when the Harper government killed a recommendation by the National Roundtable on the Environment and the Econo...

OTTAWA, Ont. – Canada’s trucking industry breathed a collective sigh of relief in January when the Harper government killed a recommendation by the National Roundtable on the Environment and the Economy to implement a carbon tax to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Canada.

The advisory panel of Canadian environmentalists in January delivered its report recommending either carbon tax increases or an emissions cap-and-trade system could reduce greenhouse gas emission by 65% by 2050.

But Environment Minister John Baird quickly quashed the carbon tax idea, calling it “Liberal.”

Needless to say, the carbon tax proposal met with no little resistance from trucking industry insiders.

“The last thing we need in the trucking industry is more fuel taxes,” fumed Canadian Trucking Alliance CEO David Bradley. “Besides, we already have a federal carbon tax in the trucking industry – it’s called the excise tax on diesel fuel.”

The excise tax on diesel was introduced by the Mulroney government in the mid-1980s, explained Bradley, for the expressed purpose of reducing the chronic government deficits that persisted at that time.

“However, those days are gone and the federal government is now generating fiscal surpluses. If they want to give the tax a policy purpose, call it a carbon tax, or a green tax or whatever you want so long as the money generated goes to promoting fuel efficiency through initiatives like CTA’s enviroTruck.”

CTA introduced its enviroTruck initiative to the federal government during 2008 budget hearings last November.

The initiative, which focuses on accelerating the penetration of emissions reducing technology into Canada’s trucking industry, promises to eliminate smog and GHG emissions up to 22%.

“Would they do that (put the carbon tax into emission-reducing initiatives) or would the money end up in general revenue anyway?” asked Bradley, adding: “The best thing to do with the excise tax on diesel fuel would be to harmonize it with the GST since it is a business input tax and the federal government supposedly wants to get rid of that form of taxation since it discourages investment in new equipment which in turn impairs the Canadian trucking industry’s competitiveness, safety and environmental performance.”

The enviroTruck initiative, meanwhile, has gained a foothold in B. C., “thanks to the hard work of the B. C. Trucking Association and the foresight of the province of British Columbia,” says Bradley.

On Jan. 25, the Fraser Basin Council announced a new incentive under its Green Fleets B. C. program to encourage the B. C. trucking sector to adopt emission reduction technologies.

Up to $10,000 per vehicle is available for trucks meeting the Council’s enviroTruck standard, to a total of $70,000 for the entire program.

Program participants will provide monthly usage stats and comments on their experience with their enviroTruck, including details on its combination of components. (The Council accepted applications up to Feb. 15).

“It’s a modest start but a significant step in the right direction which we are hopeful can be built upon over time,” said Bradley.

“It would also be very helpful is Transport Canada were to step up to the plate.”n

– For more information on carbon taxes and the potential pitfalls of a cap-and-trade system, see David Bradley’s column on pg. 22.

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