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Lowered expectations (II)


 

Jeffrey Simpson on the Harper government’s environment policies.

Put these two programs together – the transit credit and the trust fund – and we’re talking about well over $2-billion, for which Canadians got almost nothing in emissions reductions. It’s a scandal, of course, but then taxpayers grow weary of hearing about their money disappearing into thin air, most of the media have lost interest in climate change, and policies, once introduced with suitable fanfare by spin doctors and ministers, disappear into the maw of administration, federal-provincial relations and, too often, nothingness, like these two.


 

Lowered expectations (II)

  1. …and we’re talking about well over $2-billion, for which Canadians got almost nothing in emissions reductions. It’s a scandal, of course…

    Yup, the transit pass tax credit was dumb. Retail politics. Never was going to achieve the grandiose predictions of reduced fossil fuel use.

    But a scandal? Hold yer horses, Jeff.

    The gun registry sucked tax dollars out of the productive economy and did little of any use. The transit pass tax credit gave tax money back to taxpayers to reward certain taxpayers for stuff they were already doing. Maybe a few more Canadians are taking the bus now, and maybe a few more have decided to continue to put up with the inconvenience of public transit, because of it.

    Canadians did get something out of it, Jeff. Those Canadians who ride the bus got some change back on their passes. Those Canadians who drive got a bit less bumper-to-bumper hell on the expressways thanks to somewhat reduced congestion. Transit companies got a little more room to bump up prices since passes just got cheaper, perhaps allowing a little more investment in enhancing routes to meet demand (ok, ok, I know, the unions probably sucked that increase and more at the latest collective agreement, but I am trying here…).

    What tickles me is that there remain a substantial number of Canadians who believe that governments actually carry solutions, rather than manage to make most problems worse. Look back over decades, folks; the balance is certainly not in your optimistic favour.

    • Those Canadians who ride the bus got some change back on their passes. Those Canadians who drive got a bit less bumper-to-bumper hell on the expressways thanks to somewhat reduced congestion. Transit companies got a little more room to bump up prices since passes just got cheaper, perhaps allowing a little more investment in enhancing routes to meet demand (ok, ok, I know, the unions probably sucked that increase and more at the latest collective agreement, but I am trying here…).

      You have absolutely no evidence to assert any of this.

      When I look back on the last few decades, I see nothing but a dreary consumer culture and a benumbed, confused citizenry who put a lot of effort into saying nothing at all.

      • When I look back on the last few decades, I see nothing but a dreary consumer culture and a benumbed, confused citizenry who put a lot of effort into saying nothing at all.

        I guess this means you’re a “glass half empty” kind of guy.

    • I dunno, look back over the times without government. See how much progress got made then.

    • I assume MYL would cheer if the Tories had given $635 million to the transit companies as a direct cash subsidy? It would certainly be more efficient than managing a tax benefit.

      • Nope, Paul. It would absolutely be more efficient, but then you’ll have Montreal and Quebec City and Gatineau whining that they somehow deserve even more than whatever extra they already got over everyone else, well, just parce que. Municipal public transit belongs to the municipalities (and therefore the provinces), unless a constitutional scholar would like to correct me. The whole stupid shell game of the feds overtaxing everyone and then the lower levels of government whimpering and whining for Ottawa’s cash is beyond ludicrous.

        • Well, now I’m genuinely not sure I get where you’re going. It’s OK to subsidize transit companies if you pretend you’re restricting greenhouse-gas emissions?

          • I guess I wasn’t clear enough. OK, wouldn’t be the first time. Likely won’t be the last.

            The feds were dumb to do the tax credit thing, mostly because all these stupid little micro-credits are burdening a massive burden to us all, namely the federal income tax system.

            The feds were dumb to claim their tax credit scheme would achieve the lofty goals they set out for themselves.

            We Canadians are dumb to believe any government (of any political persuasion) that offers lofty overstretched promises for any of their plans.

            All I (thought I) said up above was that at least this dumb idea returned some taxpayer money to taxpayers, rather than other real “scandals” of recent history.

          • Well, the gun registry exists. Its utility is an object of debate, including among the police officers who use it, with defenders and detractors among those best qualified to judge. The cost overrun — not a dead-weight cost, but a refusal to charge users the real cost of running the program — was substantial. It is now much higher, because the current government still runs the program while declining to charge gun owners to have their weapons registered. The benefits of a registry, if any, are now purely subsidized by the state where once they were (only partially) borne by users.

          • If I’m not mistaken, I remember learning that tax credits are one of the least productive tools for encouraging or discouraging anything, public ppolicy-wise. Direct subsidies are, I believe, supposed to be more efficient/effective in relative terms. Any gogglers capable of reinforcing/tearing my recall to shreds? I can’t find anyting immediately.

    • I don’t see where it was dumb at all. The Harper government knew exactly what it was doing and did it.

      There’s lots of dumb around. On this issue and lots of others. Tax credits benefit those in a position to use them. The government knows that. That doesn’t make them dumb. Just deceptive to those that believe them.

  2. Who’s expectations have been lowered? I am willing to bet most cons would think Simpson’s article sounds about right when it comes to government. Lots of spending for little effect is exactly what many of us expect.

    • I guess you don’t think anyone needs all those highways, public transport, hospitals, schools, bridges, telecommunications infrastructure, water treatment plants…

      Simpson’s substantive point was the slicing-and-dicing of the electorate and bribing the chunks with baubles that the Conservatives promised would deliver more than they actually did.

  3. As Simpson points out in this column (and has been, in other columns, for quite some time):

    “Every serious study of climate change done in Canada and abroad makes the same point: Unless governments put a price on carbon, there cannot be a serious attempt to reduce emissions. The government’s own National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy says so in every report.”

    And yet some Canadians continue to support the bumbling Conservative, populist approaches of fiddling while the planet burns (seen Australian news coverage lately?) and melts, due to the more and more extreme weather patterns caused by climate change. Unless we as a nation get our house in order, and vote in parties that take the environment seriously (and link smarter environmental policies with funding innovation and new green technologies), we are going to continue to be part of the global problem, not the solution. Dion’s Green Shift continues to look visionary (despite his lack of political ability to sell it to the public) while the current government continues to look, well, pathetic…

    • I’d caution against using the news in Australia as any kind of proof. As has been said before, it’s global warming not “Local-Area-X” warming. Australia has high and low years like any other place. What’s more important is the global level.

      • I would generally agree with your attitude of being cautious regarding complicated scientific questions. However, the thing is, Australia has been in a major drought for about a decade or so:

        http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/PEK154980.htm

        And the Australian scientists I have heard talk about the present conditions have pointed to a fairly strong link of the drought with the effects of climate change.

        Also, note that “global warming” is really a misnomer. “Climate change” is a more accurate description of the mess we find ourselves in (such as increasing CO2 levels leading to more volatile swings in weather patterns).

  4. The Harper government is perfectly happy to spend money to increase greenhouse gas emissions and the consumption of irreplaceable fossil fuels. Stashed away in the budget announcement (about Page 146) is $25,000,000 to build more trails for ATVs and snowmobiles for recreational use. Not only will these trails encourage more people to use more gas just for the fun of, it may also encourage them to buy bigger pickups and SUVs so they can transport their OHV toys a few weekends a year, while paying the price in higher fuel consumption all year round. In the unlikely case that the new trails don’t lead OHV users to new places to go off-trail and tear up fragile environments, the trails might reduce the damage that these vehicles do – but, as I said, it’s unlikely. So we have a triple whammy on the environment. More emissions from the OHVs, more emissions from the haulers, and more destruction of wilderness.

    May as well use it up before it’s all gone, I guess. . . .

    • I couldn’t agree more. I can’t stand it when people use gas just for the fun of it. Why, just the other day I witnessed a family of four driving somewhere just for the fun of it and I could barely contain my seething resentment.

      • Now, if we could harness your seething resentment, our sustainable energy problems would be solved.

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