Hope for more transit funding could go down the drain with HST as Victoria reviews climate change policies

Alarm is spreading among environmental campaigners that BC’s carbon tax may be at risk of disappearing, along with Gordon Campbell’s cap and trade system, as Premier Christy Clark reviews the province’s climate change program.

The carbon tax, now embraced by all the front-running NDP leadership candidates, is undergoing review along with the HST as Clark prepares for a possible fall election.

Metro Vancouver mayors have been hoping that proposed future increments in the carbon tax in the Lower Mainland could be allocated to transit investment.

But recent news reports suggest BC is poised to abandon the cap-and-trade system championed by Campbell. Economist Mark Jaccard has pointed out that the tax was actually “revenue negative,” providing a wide range of tax cuts that were skewed to heavy carbon users. Any rationalization of the tax to make it do a real job would hit key government supporters.

CCPA economist Marc Lee rang the alarm about the backsliding on the carbon tax as early as February in this article originally published in the Vancouver Sun. But I was told this week that many climate change campaigners believe the situation is deteriorating in Victoria, particularly with climate change hawk Gwyn Morgan now offering advice in Christy Clark’s inner circle.

One possibility: cancellation of planned future increases in the carbon tax.

If that happens, kiss goodbye to the main source of new revenue for transit that has broad support among Metro mayors. Don’t expect a seat on the bus anytime soon.