Same Racket, Sans Jacket

Commentary, Economy, Lee Harding

“Canadians do not need to be liberated,” said Canadian Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson half a century ago. On July 24, 1967, French president Charles De Gaulle lit the fuse for Quebec independence with his famous “Vive la Quebec libre!” speech. Today, neither of their current counterparts is standing for national freedom, let alone calling for it. Emmanuel Macron chose the anthem of the European Union when he became president, instead of that of the France he came to rule. And Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has called Canada the world’s first “post-national state.” Both “leaders” have become United Nations servants, in lock-step with their carbon-taxing, migrant-welcoming agreements. This inspired 280,000 yellow-jacketed protesters in France. Will Canada be next?

Canadians have every reason for the yellow jacket protests except for the jackets themselves. Consider the carbon taxes. In France, the Interior Consumption Tax on Energy Products is applied to each litre of fuel regardless of price, with the rake-off split between national and regional governments. Since 2014 it has included a carbon tax. From there, a 20 percent Value Added Tax is applied to the overall price (including the consumption tax). The Paris Climate Accord led to higher fuel taxes—especially diesel, to equalize its price to that of gasoline. This year brought an increase of 7.6 cents per litre on diesel and 3.9 cents on gas. In cents per litre, these taxes were slated to rise another 6.5 and 2.9 respectively—an idea abandoned in an attempt to quell protests.

Canada is almost a carbon copy. Federal and provincial governments place excise taxes on gasoline and diesel at a fixed rate. From here the Goods and Services Tax is applied to the pump price plus the excise taxes (yes, a tax-on-tax), as do provincial taxes where harmonized. And as Canadians are all-too-aware, the federal government has mandated carbon taxes across the country, at $10 per tonne of carbon this year, increasing annually until $50 in 2022. This will tack 11 more cents on every litre of gas.

The closer one looks, the more the parallels. French protesters complain that certain industries and big business are being exempted from carbon taxes. Canada has taken the same approach. Starting in 2019, companies that produce 50 megatonnes of carbon dioxide a year were to face penalties, but only for the portion above 80 percent of the average within their industry. This threshold is 90 percent for companies that produced cement, iron and steel, lime and nitrogen fertilizers. Yes, Canadian grannies will pay carbon taxes to run their furnace, while 50,000 megatonne carbon producers are mostly exempt.

At the end of November, 72 percent of French people polled supported the protestors, while 27 percent supported Macron. Even so, blue collar workers and rural folks feel especially picked on by carbon taxes. They complain that urban elites don’t care about their practical realities, such as the necessity of driving to work–or that the burden placed on them supposedly to stop climate change was making it hard to get by. Saskatchewan has led the charge against Canadian carbon taxes for very similar reasons. The province has 40 percent of Canada’s arable land, but only 3 percent of its population, with many blue-collar rural people in farming, mining, and oil. Many have no choice but to spend many hours driving not just for work, recreation, and everyday life—including their children’s sports events and practices, and music and dance lessons.

Some Canadians and French have believed that their “leaders” are mere followers of a supra-national agenda, not champions for their electorate. In Paris, yellow jacket protestors defied barriers around the Tomb of the Unknown soldier to sing the French national anthem.  The 42 demands made by protestors include French withdrawal from the European Union and NATO. The E.U. mandated the acceptance of migrants, with results that have not sat well with many French. Recently, both France and Canada signed the United Nations Compact on Migration. Signatories agree to treat migrants, currently numbering 258 million, as well as their own citizens. The document even calls on national governments to withdraw support for media institutions that oppose this agenda by using non-inclusive language.

Although carbon taxes and migrants have sparked some protests, mass demonstrations that include hundreds of thousands seem unlikely. Canadians tend to be more docile and have no historical precedent of putting its rulers in guillotines. Besides this, yellow jackets are far less copious in the Great White North. Indeed, France passed a law in 2008 requires that every vehicle have one in the trunk—a piece of bureaucratic largesse that has gloriously backfired. Ottawa can be glad it never made such a regulation. Unfortunately, when it comes to parallels with Paris, it has sure done everything else.