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Liberal MP defends Green Shift from trucking industry attack

The Liberal Green Shift will help move Canada's transportation sector towards a greener, more prosperous future. The fears recently expressed by the Atlantic Provinces Trucking Association (APTA) are ...

The Liberal Green Shift will help move Canada’s transportation sector towards a greener, more prosperous future. The fears recently expressed by the Atlantic Provinces Trucking Association (APTA) are based on misinformation.

I applaud the steps taken by the trucking industry to reduce emissions significantly in the last several years and believe our Green Shift will encourage and foster an even more efficient and environmentally-conscious industry.

One goal in launching this green debate is to recognize how the economy, environment and social justice are interconnected. We do not have to pit one against the other. By promoting a greener economy, we are also promoting a stronger economy.

Energy costs have risen sharply over the past two years, and the trucking sector has been especially hard hit. The response from the federal Conservatives has been denial and the lack of any coherent plan. The Liberal Green Shift is forward-looking, and recognizes the need to embrace greener technologies that will save Canadians money, and make Canada’s economy more competitive.

Under the Green Shift, there would be no increase in taxes on gasoline. That’s because gasoline already has a federal excise tax of 10 cents per litre, which is equivalent to a carbon tax of $42 per tonne. The Green Shift plan calls for a price on carbon of $40 per tonne, phased in over four years.

Likewise, because there is already a tax on diesel and aviation fuel of four cents per litre, the tax on these fuels will not be increased at all in the first year and will only rise by seven cents per litre four years down the road. Contrast that to the nearly 50 cent per litre spike in diesel since the Conservatives came to power two years ago.

What our plan will do is create incentives for the transportation sector to be greener. Other countries that have put a price on pollution still have a vibrant transportation sector. In the fourth year of our plan, we anticipate that freight truckers will see a 1% increase in their overall operating costs.

With such a low marginal increase, any impact on the cost of consumer goods will be minimal. For APTA executive director Peter Nelson to suggest to Canadians that they’ll be paying $8 for a head of lettuce is simply irresponsible.

The experts agree with us that putting a price on carbon immediately, while providing broad-based income tax cuts, will allow us to cover approximately 75% of domestic emissions. At the same time, it will allow our economy to immediately begin the needed transition to clean energy, efficiency and sustainability.

There are many technologies out there to help truckers improve fuel efficiency, and we believe the federal government should be a partner with them and other industries as they go green. Corporate tax cuts and partnership programs allow companies to re-invest in new ‘greener’ technologies that will, in turn, further improve the environment, better their bottom line and create the jobs of the future.

The real economic threat to Canada is not the Green Shift – it is this government’s failure to take the necessary actions to help Canada transition to the 21st century economy.

The Conservatives can’t hide from the fact that our economy has been shrinking recently and that they have run a deficit in the first quarter of this year. Hundreds of thousands of unemployed workers and their families are suffering.

Virtually every expert group across the entire political spectrum has condemned the Conservative climate change plan as ineffectual. In fact, in early August a report issued by the National Roundtable on the Environment and the Economy stated that the government is overestimating how much its plan will lower greenhouse gases because it is using flawed calculations.

And it is costing Canadians more. In their own document outlining their plan, the Conservatives say Canadians can expect to bear “real costs” under their Regulatory Framework.

It states:”For the majority of individual Canadians and for businesses outside the regulated sectors, these costs will be most evident in the form of energy prices, particularly with respect to electricity and natural gas.”

The difference with our plan is that we are offering corresponding tax cuts for Canadians and Canadian businesses to help offset these rising costs.

Our plan does this because we believe that shifting Canada towards a greener, more prosperous economy is an objective that we can all accomplish together. But first, we need an honest, open debate – one that includes Atlantic Canada’s trucking industry.

– Geoff Regan, MP for Halifax West serves as chair of the Liberal Caucus Committee on Environmental Sustainability.

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