Carbon tax results divides politicians

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Social media channels were abuzz this week with talk of the provincial carbon tax, which came into effect on Jan.1.

Cochrane Coun. Jeff Toews sent out a tweet criticizing Banff-Cochrane NDP MLA Cameron Westhead for “not listening to the community” – a community and a town council he says are not largely in favour of a carbon tax.

“Cam’s job is to represent the people of his riding and he’s not doing that,” said Toews, accusing Westhead for towing the party line rather than paying attention to the members of his constituency.

“I’m definitely not against making improvements to the environment, but putting this tax in place is not the answer,” said Toews, explaining that the NDP’s blanket approach is putting this “on the backs of the taxpayers” rather than taking the time to implement an environmental strategy that would be more effective and seek both community and business buy-in.

For Westhead, much of what he’s seeing on social media is based on misconceptions on what he feels are mistruths promoted by Wildrose leader Brian Jean and PC leader hopeful and unite the right advocate Jason Kenney.

“Jeff is entitled to his opinion but there’s a lot of people who do support this … there’s going to be a lot of revenue generated from this carbon levy that will be redirected to municipalities,” said Westhead.

He added that funds from the carbon levy will result in $2.2 billion earmarked for municipalities for “green infrastructure like public transit” over the next five years – something that would likely prove beneficial for Cochrane’s future transit needs.

The province will also provide rebates through the Alberta Municipal Solar Program – for municipalities that install solar panels onto municipal buildings.

Westhead said there is also a misconception on how much the carbon tax will impact the average Albertan. He emphasized that 60 per cent of Albertans will receive a rebate, with initial rebate cheques issued this month to those whose 2015 incomes meet the criteria.

According to the government’s website, individuals with a net income of $47,500 or $95,000 for families will receive a full rebate; those with incomes slightly higher than those amounts could see partial rebates.

Total annual levy costs for 2017 – where carbon is taxed at $20/tonne – are estimated at $191/individual; $259/couple; $338/couple with two children. Rebates are $200/individual; $300/couple; $360/couple with two children.

Total annual levy costs for 2018 – where carbon is taxed at $30/tonne – are estimated at $286/individual; $388/couple; $508/couple with two individuals. Rebates are $300/individual; $450/couple; $540/couple with two children.

The government estimates annual indirect costs will be $50 to $70 per household in 2017 and $70 to $105 per household in 2018.

Those in opposition – PC and Wildrose parties – are emphatic that the NDP are downplaying the individual impact; that the carbon levy will have no real benefit to the environment and is simply wealth redistribution. They add if a conservative government is elected in either the next provincial or federal election it would inevitably repeal any provincial or federal carbon tax – resulting in infinite amounts of wasted money.

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Cochrane Eagle