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FILDEBRANDT: There’s a lot more to O’Toole’s climate crusade than his carbon tax

“It’s an unforced error of historic proportions, that will likely cost the Conservative Party a historic loss in the next election.”

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Without consulting his caucus, party members, or the broader Canadian public, Erin O’Toole committed the Conservative Party of Canada to joining the centre and far-left parties in Parliament in their zeal to save the world from apocalyptic climate change. As of April 15, 2021, there isn’t a single party represented in the House of Commons that opposes a carbon tax.

Doubtless, there are many upset Conservative MPs who had things sprung upon them, but on the record, there isn’t a single MP left in Canada that publicly opposes carbon taxes anymore.

Most of the ink spilt over O’Toole’s big flip-flop focus on his plan for a consumer carbon tax that will begin at $20/mt, and increase to $50/mt (for now), and the fact that he lied about it all, after signing a Canadian Taxpayers Federation written pledge with the promise not to do just that.

Lost beneath the headlines however is a hard-line climate crusade plan that, until recently, would have been considered radical even by Liberal standards. The full Conservative climate plan document should be a terrifying read to those who aren’t prepared to see the oil and gas industry ride into the sunset, those who are concerned about increased government spending, or those who don’t like the government micro-managing their personal choices.

Let’s start with this nugget from O’Toole’s plan.

“This will put a price on carbon for consumers without one penny going to the government.”

This just isn’t true. Just below that nugget are a long string of multi-billion dollar spending promises, including:

  • $1 billion for building out electric vehicle manufacturing in Canada.
  • $1 billion for deploying hydrogen technology including hydrogen vehicles.
  • $3 billion for natural climate solutions focused on management of forest, crop and grazing lands and restoration of grasslands, wetlands and forests.
  • $5 billion for carbon capture and storage
  • $1 billion for Small Modular Reactors.

O’Toole promised his carbon tax wouldn’t actually cost Canadian taxpayers anything, but that’s an easy $11 billion in budgeted promises, and many more billions in the more ambitious, unbudgeted promises.

Theoretically, O’Toole may not pay for them out of revenues from his proposed carbon tax; he may just decide to pay for it out of general revenues by increasing government borrowing, which he’s promised will continue long into the future. In the absence of any moderately detailed financial plan presented by O’Toole, the only two plausible options are that this will be paid for by the carbon tax, or by borrowing. Neither should please conservative voters much.

As much as O’Toole insists his proposed carbon tax is not a tax — it is — he’s also proposing other bizarre new taxes that he doesn’t make any bones about calling “taxes.” The plan says the Conservatives will “[study] the potential for introducing new taxes on frequent flyers, non-electric luxury vehicles and second homes to deter activities that hurt the environment.”

21st century conservatism boils down to taxing people who like to fly or own a cottage. How O’Toole will determine which “non-electric luxury vehicles” fall under his new carbon tax regime is anybody’s guess. Would my pickup truck count? Would my wife’s SUV?

Doubtless, the luxury SUVs that Ottawa’s political elites are chauffeured around in won’t be any more expensive for their users.

Key to O’Toole’s tenuous claim that his carbon tax is not a carbon tax, is that instead of paying the tax into the government’s coffers, it will instead be paid into a “Personal Low Carbon Savings Account.” ‘PLCSA’ doesn’t have much of a ring, so let’s just call them “O’Toole Petro Points.” O’Toole himself likens his scheme to an “affinity or rewards program” in the document.

This is the single most bogus idea in the entire plan.

At present, provinces that do not have federally-approved carbon tax regimes in place are directly charged the federal government’s carbon tax. Ottawa — after a modest handlers fee — turns around and rebates some of it back to carbon taxpayers. It’s unfair. It’s re-distributive, but it’s at least simple.

O’Toole’s plan, by contrast, would initiate the largest bureaucratic growth in the administration of government since the introduction of the modern welfare state in the 1960s.

No details whatsoever are provided as to how this will be administered, other than a statement that it will be “managed by a consortium of companies as the INTERAC system is.”

That is, Erin O’Toole will appoint a few friendly bankers to to run the massive new bureaucracy, for a modest handlers fee.

The best that we can guess as to how this would be put into practice is Canadians would have to carry a new card in their wallets, to track the purchases O’Toole deems to be deviant behaviour. Using your MasterCard or VISA to pay for gas would likely lead to you paying the new carbon tax, but left ineligible to earn O’Toole Petro Points.

Alternatively, we may need to save receipts for every single hydro-carbon purchase we make and pay an accountant a modest handling to fill our new carbon tax statements every year.

No mention whatsoever is made of the massive indirect cost of carbon taxes, such as the increased prices of groceries or clothing. Or as Stephen Harper put it when he campaigned against Stehpane Dion’s carbon tax in 2008, a “tax on everything” that “will screw everyone.”

Administration of this program would surely breed untold miles of red tape. If administered by bankers as proposed by O’Toole, it won’t come cheap. The army of accountants taking up new residence in downtown Toronto would need to be paid, and it would almost surely come off the top of the carbon taxes that Canadians pay.

O’Toole’s plan includes a raft of other policies that meddle into private consumer choices and provincial jurisdiction, such as a requirement that “30% of light duty vehicles sold to be zero emissions by 2030”.

O’Toole says that, “Canada’s Conservatives will take this plan to the provinces but, unlike the current government, we will work with them, knowing that by doing so we’ll achieve more.”

Crazy thought here, but what if say, Alberta for instance decided it didn’t want to hop onboard their climate craze? O’Toole says he’s a nice guy, and can convince the provinces to all do his bidding. Trudeau said the same thing in his sunny-ways campaign of 2015. As it turns out, not every province will agree to go along with the latest federal program.

On one key front, O’Toole explicitly promises no change whatsoever from the Trudeau carbon tax, keeping the industrial (AKA: oil and gas industry) carbon tax on track to reach an incredible $170/mt. But it’s all good, so long as the tax is administered by O’Toole.

“We aren’t going to change the rules just for the sake of change. Justin Trudeau has already created far too much regulatory uncertainty, driving investment and jobs away.”

Trudeau is bad. O’Toole is good. Policies are the same.

The good news in all of this is none of it will ever happen. If somehow O’Toole managed to find his way into the Prime Minister’s Office, he would have next to no chance of implementing his carbon tax/Petro Points plan.

He would sit down with the bankers, and they would tell him, “That’s nice, but it’s going to cost a fortune if you want us to do it.” The cost would almost certainly be so prohibitive he would toss it back to the federal bureaucracy, at which point it’s now called a tax, even by O’Toole’s muddled vocabulary. In the end, O’Toole would be faced with the only practical pro-carbon tax option: keep Trudeau’s carbon tax in place.

Alternatively, he could admit the entire thing was a terrible mistake, and revert to his promise to repeal the Trudeau carbon tax. But he probably won’t.

It’s an unforced error of historic proportions that will likely cost the Conservative Party a historic loss in the next election.

Derek Fildebrandt is the Publisher of the Western Standard

Derek Fildebrandt is the Publisher, President & CEO of Western Standard New Media Corp. He served from 2015-2019 as a Member of the Alberta Legislative Assembly in the Wildrose and Freedom Conservative parties. From 2009-2014 he was the National Research Director and Alberta Director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation. dfildebrandt@westernstandardonline.com

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. DAVID

    April 22, 2021 at 7:54 pm

    Erin O’Toole is a True Blue fraud. I live in a deeply Liberal riding, so I’m not at all sure the true conservative member vying for the CPC nomination Is going to prevail. Pity – I was looking forward to voting for them.

    I agree, Francis. The only Federal party leader who is saying the things that Canadians really need to hear is Maxime Bernier.

  2. francis witzel

    April 20, 2021 at 2:55 pm

    Sorry, not sorry , once someone’s lied , there’s no going back . No more conservative. Tax is a tax , is a tax .Guess it’s PPC

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Opinion

SLOBODIAN: Former general slamms Trudeu ‘stupdity’

Canadian taxpayer’s millions go directly into the Taliban’s blood-soaked hands. No one’s on the ground to ensure it helps Afghans they terrorize and slaughter.

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There’s truth, duty, and valour — the Royal Military College (RMC) of Canada’s motto the honourable live by as they strive to keep promises made.

Then there’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s broken promises to thousands of Afghans stuck in a potential death trap, as hopes of evacuation to safety rapidly fade.

Afghans helped the Canadian military during their 2001-2104 Afghanistan mission, believing Canada’s promise to bring them here to safety if necessary. 

It’s years past necessary. Promises broken. They’re hiding in terror with their children — Lord help the little girls — from Taliban predators. 

“There’s a bunch of people running around with sharp knives looking for them. They wouldn’t be brought before a court. The Taliban would take their heads off,” retired Maj.-Gen. Clive Addy, former Land Force Western Area commander, told the Western Standard.

Faithful translators proved invaluable. 

“They were very good at passing information to soldiers to prevent them from getting bombed out, or things like that. There’s a myriad of human services they provided. It required a heck of a lot of skill, camouflage, truth. It was that kind of courage they showed on our behalf that we must show for them,” said Addy.

“Truth, duty, and valour. The truth is, the Taliban took over. They’re criminals. Now they’ve got the place. The people to whom we made a vow, we have the duty to fulfill it. And valour, we’ve got to have the guts to do it.” 

“I cannot, having served my country, sit here and watch us walk away from such an important commitment. We’re walking away.”

It’s not that Trudeau isn’t shovelling money into Afghanistan. He pledged an initial extra $50 million for humanitarian aid, topping $27.3 million allocated for 2021.

Recently, Trudeau gave $1.7 million to the Afghanistan Strategic Evacuation Team (ASET), a group of Canadians and Afghans overseen by the Veterans Transition Network (VTN), helping Afghan interpreters.

Of the 10,000 Afghan translators and their families they’ve identified, 1,760 are hiding in safe houses used since the U.S. withdrawal in August. 

The $3 million spent to date, at $20,000 a day, was donated by private citizens and corporations. 

Funds run out November 5. 

Shockingly, Trudeau stipulated the $1.7 million couldn’t be used for safe houses, only logistics.  

ASET is overseen by three retired Canadian major generals — Dean Milner, David Fraser, and Denis Thompson — all RMC graduates.

Bureaucrats, obediently wagging their tails for Trudeau, tell these military greats, all former task-force commanders in Afghanistan, where to spend money.

Canadian taxpayer’s millions go directly into the Taliban’s blood-soaked hands. No one’s on the ground to ensure it helps Afghans they terrorize and slaughter.

Trudeau’s foolishly hoping the devious Taliban — seeking cash and recognition as a legitimate government — will be good little terrorists keeping a promise to behave.

“I’m just shaking my head. I don’t know how they come up with this stupidity. The Taliban asked for support, and we’ve got immigration going through the UN prepared to give them money. But they’re not prepared to give money to people under threat,” said Addy.

“The Taliban have the gall to say ‘Our people are hungry, send money to the UN.’ We’re supporting that. I’m sure there’s some hungry Taliban that Canada might help. The rest of the people are starving.”

On the campaign trail, Trudeau said Canada would welcome 20,000 Afghan refugees. Foreign Minister Marc Garneau, a former Navy commander, doubled it to 40,000 at the UN General Assembly in September.

At an October G20 meeting, Trudeau proclaimed humanitarian assistance must continue, but urged the Taliban to respect rights of women and children. Urge away, it’ll never happen.

Trudeau also urged other countries to take in more refugees.

So far, Canada says it welcomed 3,700 Afghans. That disputed number’s likely 3,000. Many had already left Afghanistan and were ‘evacuated’ from safe countries. Less than 20% were interpreters and families.

Addy recently penned a letter to ministers and MPs to be signed by RMC alumni, outlining a blueprint of what Trudeau must do.

It stated the need to expedite funds to ASET; remove barriers restricting funds from being used for safe houses; remove documentation obstacles eliminating the need for passports by issuing single use travel documents to valid resettlement applicants allowing them to obtain Pakistan e-visas; issue facilitation letters to support the travel documents; and fund air charters for evacuation.

Addy, Milner, Fraser and Thompson aren’t the only retired commanders criticizing the government.

In August, retired general and former chief of the defence staff Rick Hillier told CBC the evacuation operation is “cluttered” by bureaucratic clumsiness, inefficiency, and paperwork. Former lieutenant-general and Liberal MP Andrew Leslie echoed concerns.

Trudeau said the Taliban seized power so quickly, Canada couldn’t evacuate more people. Nonsense.  Military personnel and NGOs have fought for years to get interpreters out.

“I spent three years trying to bring in one of my good Afghans and family members. His file was in Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada longer. No movement. Zero, with me picking on them daily, getting lawyers to help,” said VTN’s Milner.

“He was almost killed. The Taliban had his phone. He was a fighter. The Taliban wanted him big-time. We were able to sneak him and his seven lovely children out…They’re in Canada.”

The government, rightfully, says Afghans must be vetted. Hence, the delay. 

The VTN already vetted thousands, people they know well.

Who better to vet? A bureaucrat perusing applications? Or Canadians these Afghans fought beside?

The clock’s ticking Trudeau. 

It’s about truth, duty and valour, right Garneau? Being a RMC graduate, did you forget that part? 

Get them out.

Slobodian is the Senior Manitoba Columnist for the Western Standard
lslobodian@westernstandardonline.com

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Opinion

SLOBODIAN: Canada dithers while girls get beheaded for playing volleyball

If Taliban thugs unleash demonic rage on a girl because she was involved in sports, imagine what awaits Afghans who helped Canadian soldiers — keeping many alive — during the 2001-2014 mission in Afghanistan.

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Mahjabin Hakimi was beheaded by the Taliban who then posted gruesome photos of her severed head on social media as a menacing warning to others. 

Why? The girl played volleyball.

Hakimi, a star player on the girls’ national team, was slaughtered in Afghanistan’s capital of Kabul.

If Taliban thugs unleash demonic rage on a girl because she was involved in sports, imagine what awaits Afghans who helped Canadian soldiers — keeping many alive — during the 2001-2014 mission in Afghanistan.

Time is running out for 1,760 Afghan translators and their families who’ve been kept safe only because of an effort led by retired Canadian top military commanders and carried out by non-governmental agencies and others.

For courageously risking their lives, Afghans were promised refuge in Canada if needed. They remain indefinitely trapped, betrayed by the Trudeau government. 

Despite endless political platitudes and promises, it isn’t the government doggedly working to get them out. 

About 10,000 Afghans who helped Canadians, identified by the Veterans Transition Network (VTN), are targets of vengeful marauding medieval assassins hunting for them.

The VTN oversees the provision of emergency funds for shelter and support of the 1,760 during an agonizing wait for evacuation through the Afghanistan Strategic Evacuation Team comprised of Canadians and Afghans.

The $20,000 a day cost since the Taliban seized power in August when the U.S. pulled out, has been manageable due to private and corporate donations.

Funds are running out. The lifeline’s gone in two weeks. 

Aman Lara, a Canadian non-governmental organization, works closely with the VTN. 

Retired Canadian lieutenant-colonel Eleanor Taylor, who is chief of staff, notified the Afghans Friday: “Due to the complexity of the situation in Afghanistan, Aman Lara regretfully has to scale back accommodation support to Afghans in need of evacuation by November 5.

“We had expected that applications would be processed in a timely manner and evacuations would be swifter. Unfortunately, our ability to finance the accommodations has diminished and time has run out.”

Three retired major-generals — Dean Milner, Denis Thompson and David Fraser — have been working feverishly since July to evacuate these Afghans. They’re all former task-force commanders in Afghanistan.

On Friday, Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau assured Fraser the government is working on air charter evacuation flights to Pakistan and elsewhere and will investigate the problematic documentation process. 

He intends to pass along the VTN’s concerns to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Minister Marco Mendicino.

However, not much can be done until the October 26 cabinet shuffle, said Garneau. Then the new cabinet must settle in and Parliament won’t resume until November 22.

So, the federal government — and its cumbersome bureaucratic process that creates obstacles — continues along its useless path going nowhere.

Despite grand promises from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and cabinet ministers evacuation efforts are sluggish.

“They all keep saying they’re going to support us. When?” asked Milner.

Months ago, Trudeau pledged to resettle 40,000 Afghan refugees.

“Where are they coming from? Tell me. The Afghans that need to be supported are those in Afghanistan.”

The government claims it has evacuated 3,700 Afghans. 

“I think it’s over 3,000. Anything they said, I take it with exaggeration. No more than 20% were interpreters and their families,” said Milner.

That leaves embassy staff and Afghans already safe in other countries. 

“We don’t want the low-hanging fruit of other countries. The ones that did the work for us, that worked closely alongside us, are still stuck in miserable Afghanistan,” said Milner.

“We have over 10,000 Afghans in our group who still need to be evacuated. We’ve managed to bring a little over 300 through the border into Pakistan. We have a lot more to do,” said Milner.

That would include finding money to keep Afghans in safe houses. VTN asked the government for funding.

“We’ve been asking constantly. We’re getting support from many people. But the government still hasn’t bitten. They gave $1.7 million two weeks ago to keep us quiet. We couldn’t use that for safe houses. That was actually part of the policy.”

That money must be used to cover other expenses.

“That’s a drop in the bucket when you’re taking care of this many people. We’re paying to transport people across the country to Pakistan. We’re paying for buses. We’re paying for Afghans that are supporting us. We’re supporting a team trying to operationalize this and make it work. It doesn’t take much to eat up money.”

“Volunteers like me, I don’t need money,” said Milner.

Individual Canadians and “outstanding” companies like McCain Foods and Sobeys, donated nearly $3 million racked up in expenses so far.

“It has cost $20,000 a day since August for the safe houses. That’s not counting other life support and transportation costs.”

VTN is exploring ways to evacuate Afghans by land and on charter flights from Mazar-i-Sharif Airport, in Afghanistan’s fourth-largest city.

“We’d like to get going with charter air flights. The Taliban are now allowing flights into Afghanistan.”

But the $750,000 cost of one charter would “eat up” the safe house money left.

Why isn’t the government running charter flights?

No one’s flying out yet and the Taliban’s on the prowl. 

“There’s still an absolute danger. The Taliban are unpredictable. You can’t trust them. That’s why we fought them. Here they are now in power. They don’t like fun, they don’t like women, they don’t like school, they don’t like sporting activities.” 

“We get absolutely awful stories. We’re not going to stop until we get these Afghans out. We see it as a moral obligation. They supported us over there. They’re great people.”

TOMORROW: Truth Duty Valour vs. Trudeau’s broken promises.

Slobodian is the Senior Manitoba Columnist for the Western Standard
lslobodian@westernstandardonline.com

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Opinion

WAGNER: The left ignores growing support for Alberta independence at its peril

Angus Reid released its poll showing that over half of Albertans believed the province would be better off if it left Canada. Were those results just another Postmedia trick?

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A recent poll conducted by Mainstreet Research for the Western Standard showed new heights of support for Alberta independence. This demonstrates the movement is alive and not running out of steam. Just because the issue is out of the headlines for the moment does not mean it’s far from the thoughts of a great many Albertans.

The poll found 40% support for Alberta independence with 45% preferring to remain in Canada, and another 15% undecided. If the undecideds are removed, support for independence rises to 47% versus 53% for the status quo.  

Previous Mainstreet Research polls commissioned by the Western Standard showed growing — but demonstrably weaker — support for independence. A July 6, 2020 story entitled “Alberta leads the West in wanting independence” found only 20% of Albertans favouring independence. Another story from Jan. 13, 2021, “Third of Albertans & majority of UCP voters back Western independence, shyer about going it alone,” found 25% favouring Alberta independence if the province struck out on its own, but 36% support for an independent country comprising other Western provinces.

The polling results seem to indicate a growing trend of support for independence. That’s obviously good news for those favouring that option.

It seems, however, that Alberta’s progressives have a blind spot when it comes to acknowledging popular support for independence. This has been evident in recent years, even as Justin Trudeau has driven many Albertans into the sovereigntist camp.

With Trudeau aggressively preventing pipeline construction and resource development, support for independence gained considerable strength towards the end of 2018. Indeed, early in 2019, the Angus Reid Institute released its own poll indicating independence sentiment was quite strong in Alberta. The article reporting the results stated: “More than half Albertans (52%) say they believe the west would be better off if it left Canada.”

Yet, just a few weeks earlier, prominent leftist blogger Dave Cournoyer wrote, “Reading the pages of the Postmedia newspapers or the #ableg hashtag on Twitter you might believe that Albertans from roughneck Fort McMurray to trendy Kensington are calling for Independence and rising up in arms against their political overlords in Ottawa. Nope.”

He went on to state that “… it is difficult to believe there is any real appetite for Albertans to leave Canada, and the consequences that would follow.” And he assured his readers that “support for separation remains consistently low.” The occasional demand for Alberta independence, Cournoyer wrote, “is the political equivalent of a toddler’s temper tantrum.”

Shortly after Cournoyer’s piece appeared, another prominent leftist blogger, David Climenhaga, also downplayed the independence movement. Climenhaga’s unique contribution to the discussion is his claim the Alberta independence movement is a smoke-and-mirrors trick perpetrated by Toronto-based Postmedia.

Writing of the surge in support for independence towards the end of 2018, Climenhaga claimed that, “The whole thing was almost entirely ginned up in a couple of weeks by a parade of political commentators at Postmedia’s newspapers, basically providing background music for the campaign of United Conservative Party Leader Jason Kenney.” That is, Postmedia was trying to create a political climate to aid Jason Kenney in his dispute with Justin Trudeau.

Climenhaga went on to assure his readers that by the beginning of 2019, “the Alberta independence ‘threat’ will be fading into history, again, worth a chuckle or two, like Ur-Western-separatist Gordon Kesler, and taken seriously by almost nobody – or perhaps I should say, nobodies.” Apparently, in his view, only “nobodies” take Alberta independence seriously. That would probably mean a lot of Western Standard readers would be “nobodies” by Climenhaga’s standard – like Hillary Clinton’s “deplorables.”

His main point, though, was public controversy over Alberta independence was just a big show that had come to an end: “But the squall is over, folks. Watch for Postmedia to start backing away as soon as they start to realize how little traction this partisan claptrap has.”

Yet, just a few weeks after he wrote that, Angus Reid released its poll showing over half of Albertans believed the province would be better off if it left Canada. Were those results just another Postmedia trick?

Albertans had grievances with the federal government for generations. These grievances are accumulating and generating increasing discontent with the province’s place in Canada. The support for independence revealed by the new Western Standard poll reflects the unhappiness of many Albertans. They are beginning to realize the status quo is not going to change and the only positive alternative is for Alberta to leave Canada.

Nevertheless, progressives appear to be blind to the legitimate concerns of these Albertans and dismiss them as “nobodies” who are throwing a “temper tantrum.” If support for Alberta independence continues to grow, progressives may have to do more than simply demean its proponents.

The causes underlying growth in sovereignist sentiment are not going away and as a result, the movement is here to stay.

Michael Wagner is a Western Standard columnist

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