The Peter Kent school of journalism - Macleans.ca

The Peter Kent school of journalism

The environment minister identifies an “activist”

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The Environment Minister pointedly objects to a story by Mike De Souza* by suggesting that De Souza is an “environmental activist” who favours a carbon tax. Here is the full letter, as printed by the Windsor Star on January 4.

I am writing to clarify a few points from Mike De Souza’s Dec 24 article regarding the federal government’s proposed regulations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from light-duty vehicles. Our government is committed to protecting the environment and reducing greenhouse gas emissions while minimizing the economic impact on Canadians. We are working with the United States to develop GHG regulations that reflect the highly integrated North American auto sector, which includes thousands of Canadian manufacturing jobs.

Mr. De Souza, like most environmental activists, believes that a carbon tax is the only answer to combat climate change. Our government is fundamentally opposed to broad-based carbon tax schemes like the NDP’s $21-billion plan to tax everything without links to environmental benefits.

Canada has undertaken a sector-by-sector regulatory approach to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Under our plan, industrial sectors are forced to reduce carbon emissions at the smokestack or tail pipe by developing and deploying innovative technology.

Ours is the first Canadian government to reduce greenhouse gases and we will continue act in Canada’s environmental and economic interests.

PETER KENT, federal Environment Minister, Ottawa

Mr. Kent writes that he’d like to “clarify a few points” about the story, but he doesn’t actually identify any particular parts of the story that he objects to. De Souza’s story is a reporting of the costs associated with the government’s new fuel economy standards as those costs are identified and explained by the Harper government in the Canada Gazette. I linked to that cost-benefit analysis here on December 8. And some of those costs were noted when Mr. Kent announced the regulations in November.

The minister’s letter refers to the NDP proposal as a carbon tax. More specifically, the NDP has proposed a cap-and-trade system. This is a bit of a thing. Mr. Kent, for instance, was first elected as a Conservative in 2008, when the party’s platform included a promise to pursue a cap-and-trade system—a measure the minister now equates with a carbon tax.

Joe Oliver tried to use a letter to the editor to make the government’s case in November. Ironically, in that letter Mr. Oliver deferred to the judgement of “eminent economist” Jack Mintz. Mr. Mintz supports a carbon tax as the best policy option to reduce greenhouse gases.

*Full disclosure: I’ve met Mike and I think we’ve chatted briefly a couple times, so I guess we’d qualify as passing acquaintances.