Whack the HST and climate change
Come August, when you open up those hydro and gas bills, you’re going to see an 8 per cent increase since the HST will apply to energy purchases. Some (most?) will just suck it up, but the smart ones will get even. They will get their money back by lowering their energy use by at least 8 per cent. The government will still get its half pound of flesh, but it will be relatively painless for those paying slimmed down bills.
Sounds too easy to be true? Not really. Most residents and businesses can cut their energy use by at least 10 per cent with very little effort. More efficient lighting and appliances, ensuring things are off when not in use including those “always on” devices that suck power 24/7, programmable thermostats, signing up for Hydro’s PeakSaver, caulking and draftproofing, adding insulation. None of this is terribly hard and the investment pays back, especially as the HST adds 8 per cent and energy rates go up.
Prompting some of us to stop wasting so much energy would be an upside. But as a way of getting us to dramatically reduce climate and air pollution, the HST is a fairly blunt instrument. What we need is a clear, significant financial signal that burning fossil fuels and wasting energy are unacceptable. The dominant view among both climate scientists and leading economists is that putting a price on carbon is what it will take to get us to take energy conservation and renewable energy seriously.
Cities are going to take it on the chin from climate change, but the big sticks for quickly and decisively driving down greenhouse gas emissions – taxation and pricing – are generally considered the domain of senior governments. The federal government is sitting on the sidelines on this issue, waiting (possibly in vain) for our neighbours to the south. Ontario made a commitment to carbon pricing (and carbon trading with a several provinces and U.S. states) but seems to have stalled out on this file.
Senior governments are moving glacially while the ice caps melt. Probably a good time for Toronto to pick up the big stick, and get the financial upside for investment in solutions to protect our rapidly unravelling environment.