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Parties argue over gas tax

by Archives September 16, 2008

In the face of uncertain economic times, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced last week that he intends to cut the tax on diesel fuel by 50 per cent.
In doing so, Harper’s Conservatives stand diametrically opposed to the Liberals, whose main campaign initiative is the so-called Green Shift, a tax on carbon emissions that Harper has labeled a “tax on everything.”
Dion countered these accusations last week by including $900 million in subsidies to Canada’s agricultural, fisheries and transportation sectors. All are industries likely to be hit hardest by a carbon tax.
Incentives would be provided for businesses to upgrade to more fuel-efficient equipment. The Liberals also intend to use income tax cuts, paid for by the revenue raised off of carbon, to soften the economic effect of the increased tax on lower income Canadians.
NDP leader Jack Layton has also taken an opposing stance to Harper on the gas tax: instead of cutting the excise tax from four cents to two, Layton would like to see one cent of the present tax spent on infrastructure and new energy technologies.
Harper’s stance is calculated. Instead of running on a platform that encourages the development of renewable technologies, he is running on one that will benefit consumer’s pocketbooks and the Canadian economy in the short-term.
The Prime minister clearly understands economic and environmental concerns are both fighting to become the central issues of this election.
Harper’s plan is designed to keep the Canadian economy from stumbling in the next year, as economists expect it to. He claims such green initiatives would be devastating to the country’s most vital sectors, killing jobs and driving up the cost of living. He is banking on his belief that present concerns over oil prices and the Canadian economy will outweigh environmental concerns about the future.
Giving credence to Harper’s argument is the instability of global oil prices. Prices have dropped by 30 per cent in the last few months after reaching a record high of $147 a barrel in July. But the nations of Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) remain determined to keep prices as high as possible.
Fearing prices would dip below $100 a barrel, president of OPEC, Chakib Khelil, announced last week that the cartel will be curbing production by 520,000 barrels a day.
Dion and Layton both recognize the 13 nations of OPEC, who control 40 per cent of the world’s oil, will not allow global prices to drop significantly. That being the case, they see a gas tax as short-term measure and emphasize the necessity of moving towards renewable fuels.
With environmental and economic concerns determining the balance of this election, Canadians will be forced to decide between the Conservatives short-term plan to preserve the economy and the Liberal’s long-term environmental vision.

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