Lowered expectations

Rona Ambrose, then environment minister, July 5, 2006. “The transit tax credit will not only save people money, but by taking public transit Canadians will be helping to improve our environment. The transit tax credit is part of our government’s made in Canada environmental plan. Our transit tax initiative will take the equivalent of 56,000 cars off the road each year which will significantly reduce greenhouse gases here in Canada.”

Environment Commissioner, December report. “In its 2007 Climate Change Plan under the Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act, Environment Canada stated that the Tax Credit is expected to result in emission reductions of 220,000 tonnes each year from 2008 through 2012. This was approximately double Finance Canada’s estimate of the resulting emission reductions in its strategic environmental assessment. In its 2008 Plan, Environment Canada amended the figure for expected reductions to an average of 35,000 tonnes per year—about 16 percent of the original estimate. Given the lowered figure, the Tax Credit will have a negligible impact on Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions. Many factors influence public transit ridership, including the price of gasoline. The result is that it is almost impossible to measure actual greenhouse gas emission reductions attributable to the tax credit. With regard to other air emissions, Environment Canada could not provide any analysis to support the assertion that the Tax Credit would result in measurable impacts.”

Jim Prentice, environment minister, this afternoon. “Well, as I said, there are two ways to measure the tax credit.  One is greenhouse gas reductions.  The other is it’s important as a fiscal measure for people who use bus transportation and it needs to be measured in light of both of those public policy objectives.  But certainly, you know, we will take the report.  We’ve just received it in the last few hours.  We’ll take it.  We’ll study it and we’ll learn from what the commissioner has to say.  They do — they do good work and we can all benefit from their advice.”

David McGuinty, Liberal environment critic, asked to comment on Prentice’s remarks. “Well then give me a tax break for taking out my garbage.”