Time to Audit Elizabeth May

Commentary, Environment, Elizabeth Nickson

This month, Canada’s Green Party leader Elizabeth May published “Who We Are, Reflections on My Life and Canada”.  It is an important book, because May is an energetic power broker in Ottawa, the provinces and abroad.  Responsible for many powerful environmental regulations which too often, choked local economies, she has more plans for Canada; plans which given her past successes urgently require examination.  She may be a party of one, but as she has often said, her special skill is to work with all the parties to see ever more environmental regulation enforced. 

There are many things May seems to dislike about Canada and she has a catastrophic view of our future if we don’t do what she recommends. The free market is seen as a disaster writ large; she holds strongly the views of last year’s hit book by economist Thomas Pilketty, who recommends massive income redistribution. Her list is long: we are a petro state and are threatened by oil, pipelines, frakking, fish farming, carbon, the “tar” sands, industrial farming, meat eating, population growth, biodiversity collapse, the stock market, banks, ozone, development, and especially, the rich.  When May writes the world needs more Canada, she means she wants us to take up leadership in the new green economy and use our moral suasion to force international climate treaties, stop the oil sands and convert to green energy.

While some of the innovations she wants are worthy and as soon as we can afford it, necessary, they all cost money, lots of it.  But, while Canada is the healthiest of the G7, like every Western democracy, we have many hundreds of billions in unfunded pension and health liabilities bearing down on us, a fact May ignores.

Consider green energy. Given Stephen Harper’s recalcitrance on alternatives, carbon taxes and cap and trade, we are able to examine just what happened to other jurisdictions who hurled themselves down the green path without much in the way of critical thinking.

In BC, which, has the first carbon tax in North America, according to GEMCO President Alden Donnelly, , rather than revenue neutral, the tax cost BC residents more than $600 million, and fell most heavily on the marginal.  In 2013, the BC Auditor General found that the two largest recipients of the repurposed tax money from hospitals, schools and disproportionately the least advantaged, were the Nature Conservancy of Canada and Encana, a gas company.  Australia’s carbon tax was so unpopular that even the Labour Party is saying they won’t go back to it. 

Analyses of carbon taxes show the poor, young, elderly and small businesses suffering most. Andrew Chamberlain of the Tax Foundation estimates cap and trade will fall most heavily on young families starting out, small business and the vulnerable.  Not for nothing, Goldman Saks has built a carbon trading platform.

Catastrophic climate change is May’s chief worry.  However, the ‘pause’ has lasted 18 years.  Respected scientists are beginning to say the feedback loops were not understood.  NOAA recently reported there was no link between climate change and extreme weather.  NASA recently admitted that it could not understand the 18 year pause and there are recent studies showing the heat did not hide in the deep ocean. The 2008 Climate Change Act in Britain is estimated to cost the country 1.1 Trillion pounds, and they will have to build 2,500 wind turbines every year for the next 36 years, swamping an area the size of Scotland. The 5,000 wind turbines already built are widely hated and the transition is terrible for the vulnerable.  At Christmas 2010, 500,000 pensioners spent Christmas in bed because the subsidies promised for Green Energy did not show up.  Today a million Britons live in fuel poverty. 

The same concerns regarding transition are associated with the effort to create green jobs. Mr. Obama’s green job initiative was estimated to cost $11 million per job, and since 2000, Spain spent €571,138 to create each ‘green job,’ including subsidies of more than €1-million per wind industry job. Furthermore, researchers have calculated that such programs have resulted in the loss of approximately 110,500 jobs elsewhere in the economy, or approximately 2.2 jobs eliminated for every ‘green job’ created. In Germany, utilities are losing vast sums of money due to excessive feed-in tariffs for green energy and grid management problems. Their environment minister calculates taxpayers will be charged an estimated €1.35 trillion, shaving 2% off GDP for twenty years.

Seductive as she may seem, Elizabeth May’s Canadian dream is a luxury we cannot afford.