by Paul Wells
“Mr. Speaker, another friend of mine, Marie, has three boys,” Lisa Raitt said on Wednesday during question period.
Raitt is the Conservatives’ finance critic. Across the House of Commons aisle, some Liberals chuckled. Raitt had already asked a question about her friend Susan, a divorced mom in Guelph whose daughters are in university. Susan “hears about some new taxes,” Raitt said. Surely the Liberals didn’t want to introduce new taxes.
Now Raitt was asking about her other friend, Marie. She did not like to hear the Liberals laughing about Marie.
“Are you kidding me? They’re laughing,” she said.
Finally, she was able to describe Marie’s predicament.
“My friend Marie has three boys. Her husband just went on disability. They have a hard time making ends meet. She is trying to deal with it as best she can, but the money is just not there. Now she hears about more taxes.”
This is the carbon tax Justin Trudeau says he will implement in provinces that don’t already have a carbon tax, or a cap-and-trade scheme of equivalent effect.
Won’t the Liberals think of Marie, Raitt asked. “The reality is that the van has to be filled up to take the boys to hockey. So ëWhich one of the boys does not get to play hockey next year?’ is the question. She does not understand why the government does not realize she has a tough situation.
Because if it did, it would not raise her taxes. What comfort does the government have to give her?”
Later that evening, video of the whole tableau – Raitt starting her question, the snide Liberal snickering, Raitt expostulating, Raitt finishing her question – was on Rona Ambrose’s Facebook page.
“The Liberals are so out of touch from what ordinary Canadians are facing,” the Conservative interim leader wrote. It was right over her photos from a mid-week conference in the United Kingdom.
Let us ponder Marie’s case, to get in touch with ordinary Canadians.
Trudeau’s carbon tax, in provinces that don’t already price carbon, would be $10 per tonne of carbon emissions next year, rising to $50 a tonne in the fifth year. It’s been estimated this would boost the price of gas by about 11 cents a litre at the pump in year five.
Raitt was artfully imprecise about where Marie lives. That’s because Ontario, which Raitt represents in the House of Commons, already has a cap-and-trade scheme in place and should not expect to worry about a $50-per-tonne federal tax on top of that. Perhaps Marie is in New Brunswick.
Wherever she lives, if her kids are in house-league hockey they are probably young enough to qualify for the Canada Child Benefit, introduced in Bill Morneau’s first budget. If Marie’s family income is $60,000 per year and her children are ages 6, 12 and 14, she’ll qualify for about $11,500 a year in child benefits, tax-free. This compares to $3,600 in taxable benefits under the Harper government’s old Canada Child Tax Benefit. Let’s say she now nets an extra $8,500 a year.
Marie must drive a lot, if carbon taxes tip the balance. Perhaps she drives a Ram ProMaster City, whose combined city-highway fuel efficiency, I learn, comes out to 9.8 litres per 100 kilometres. Kind of middling. At 11 cents per litre, that means 100 km of driving would cost her an extra $1.08.
To use up her net gain from the Canada Child Benefit on costlier hockey trips, Marie would need to drive 787,000 km a year. If the hockey season lasts 120 days, that’s 6,558 km per day. Perhaps Marie plans to drive from Moncton to Winnipeg and back for her kids’ games. If so, her enemy would not be the Liberals, but the provincial police: to get from Moncton to Winnipeg and back within a day she would need to drive at a constant speed of 273 km/h.
That’s in the fifth year of a carbon tax. If Marie is lucky, one of her children will simply be too old to make the daily Moncton-to-Winnipeg hockey trek by then.
It’s worth remembering that in the last year, just from market fluctuations, the average retail price for gas in Canada has wandered between a low of 83 cents and a high of $1.10 – a range of 27 cents, or nearly two and a half times the 11-cent burden Trudeau threatens.
Raitt is thought to be contemplating a run at the Conservative leadership.
This is the quality of work she brings to the floor of the House of Commons.
Paul Wells is a national affairs writer. His column appears Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday.
Copyright: 2016 – Torstar Syndication Services