Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Canadians support carbon tax

That's what a new Environics poll finds, well-timed as a backdrop for the Durban climate change conference: "Support for climate action still strong in Canada, poll finds." See near the end, 57% of British Columbians support the carbon tax, where they actually have one, which is important. The poll finds majority support for a carbon tax in the rest of Canada as well. It shows that there is opportunity to pitch a carbon tax, if parties decide to be bold, as economically beneficial in a time of economic uncertainty as well.

I would take issue with the way the Globe frames their reporting of this poll though. This part in particular which suggests Canadians are aligned with the government on their environmental views:
Mr. Kent insists Ottawa would support a new treaty that includes commitments from the United States and large emerging countries such as China and India to reduce emissions. However, negotiators have failed to make much progress on a new deal. And emerging economies and poorer ones want Kyoto principles to form the basis of any successor treaty.

While critics say the Harper government is retrograde in its climate change policy, the Conservatives have balanced their opposition to Kyoto and backing for the emissions-intensive oil sands with support for a new global deal and promised regulatory action at home.

It’s an approach that appears to resonate with Canadians, Mr. Neuman said.

“It is not clear to Canadians what the right treaty is or what the right approach is, but they want something done,” he said in an interview.
That latter point is the key. Canadians want something done. They want leadership. It's not that surprising on an issue like this that they don't know what the right treaty is or what the right approach is. That's where a government that is committed to getting something done steps in.

What's not clear here is whether the notion of doing little to nothing for years while you wait for the big emitters to sign on to a new global deal is acceptable to Canadians. Presumably not if they "want something done" and are expressing support for mechanisms like a carbon tax which has been, ahem, highly controversial in our recent past. So to say Canadians are aligned with the government is not necessarily the case. There may be agreement with the apple pie goals, but not how the government is going about doing it.

At least the strong support for action on climate change that appears to be in this poll is a good counter to the Harper government's intransigence on the file and their international retreat. That's the strong takeaway that is well-timed.

Update (7:40 p.m.): I should clarify one part of this post. I take issue with the way the pollster frames the results of the poll, more so than the Globe.