It’s admirable the MD of Foothills is joining other municipalities in seeking an exemption from carbon taxes.
The MD is justifiably concerned the tax will result in higher gas bills for its fleet, and higher taxes for its residents. According to MD CAO Harry Riva-Cambrin, the MD uses 1.5 million litres of fuel each year and the proposed federal carbon tax of $50 per tonne will cost an estimated $657,000 per year. This would result in a one-and-a-half percentage point increase on tax bills if existing service levels are not cut.
It’s a difficult hit for families in any municipality, but exempting municipalities is not as simple as it appears on the surface. For one thing, it begs the question of who else should be exempt. What about non-profits or school boards? Or additional exemptions for agricultural producers already exempt from the tax on marked fuel? Other sectors could come knocking, whittling away at the effectiveness of the carbon tax against climate change.
Besides, carbon tax or not, municipalities still need to keep their snowplows, fire trucks and maintenance vehicles working and that means using fuel. Even if they get an exemption, municipalities and their taxpayers will be paying a carbon tax in some form. Private companies providing services will pay the tax and pass the cost on to the municipality, which will then pass it on to taxpayers.
Whether it’s the cost to operate a recreation centre or fill up a fire truck, they’re all costs borne by a municipality and it’s reasonable for taxpayers to pay their share to keep up service levels.
Ultimately, the MD is doing what it should – trying to look after its residents to ease the impact on taxes.
There is no question climate change is a challenge that must be confronted by all nations.
The provincial and federal government need to look beyond carbon taxes and ensure they’re not creating tough financial challenges for families and taxpayers.