Pimm launches Change.org petition of his own government

It may have just 700 signatures, but Pat Pimm's petition asking Christy Clark to freeze the province's carbon tax is turning heads. 

On Friday, the two-term Liberal MLA for Peace River North took the unusual step of petitioning his own government through Change.org, asking Premier Christy Clark to leave the province's carbon tax at $30 per tonne. 

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The province is reviewing the tax as part of its Climate Leadership Plan, which will lay out how B.C. meets its 2050 emissions reduction targets. The panel appointed to develop the plan delivered 32 recommendations in October, which are going through a public consultation process before a final vote this fall. 

Pimm said any increase in carbon tax will hurt industry in the province's oil and gas field, and that his petition is simply an attempt to engage constituents. But Green Party Leader and MLA Andrew Weaver said Pimm's coming out against carbon tax increases while the matter is up for consultation was "inappropriate on a fundamental level."

"It leads one to question the credibility of the government on this file, if you haven't already questioned it," Weaver said. "It undermines the intent of the whole process, having an MLA undermine public input with stuff like this (during the public consultation period)."

Pimm admitted that starting a petition "is not something you see an MLA do everyday." 

"I don't know if (the petition) undermines things or not," he said when asked about Weaver's criticism.

Pimm said increasing the price on carbon risks sending investment elsewhere, giving Spectra Energy and Teck Resources as examples of companies that already pay considerable carbon taxes . 

"The way I look at it is I've got a two-year-old grandson who's going to be 36 years old in 2050. Do I want him, in 2050, to be paying 84 cents a litre in carbon tax on gasoline, in rural B.C. where we don't have transit? I don't think that's all that good," he said.

"The bottom line is we want to maintain jobs, and we want to make sure industry is not taxed out of existence," he said.

B.C. was the first North American jurisdiction to put a price on carbon, launching the carbon tax in 2008. The tax is revenue neutral, meaning any income from carbon pricing is offset with decreases in other provincial taxes.

Pimm said he began the petition after 130 B.C. businesses signed a letter to the premier saying they support carbon tax increases.

"I checked with businesses (in the North Peace) and I didn't find any that fell into that category," he said.

The tax is currently frozen at $30 a tonne, and government says it won't consider increases without protection for so-called emission-intensive, trade-exposed industries such as oil and gas. The province's Climate Leadership Team says increases of $10 per year starting in 2018 will likely be needed for B.C. to meet its 2050 targets.

The team also recommends the tax be reviewed again in five years, along with cutting the provincial sales tax to 6 per cent across the board, and eliminating PST from business and industry electricity rates. 

Weaver said carbon taxes are the "single most important recommendation" in the Climate Leadership Plan. 

As for an MLA petitioning his own party, "I've never seen this before," he said.

"I know he's not running again, so maybe this is his parting shot across the bows," Weaver said. "But this is more than just an MLA expressing his opinions: this is just inappropriate at such a fundamental level—to undermine a public consultation process during the time it's actually being conducted.

"(The Green Party) have done petitions from a political perspective on party websites. But Change.org? Really? I've never seen anything like it. It's remarkable. I can't explain it."  

reporter@dcdn.ca 

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