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Canadian conservatives have never embraced carbon pricing via transparent carbon taxes, uniformly applied on all Canadian emissions, as a rational and preferred mechanism to deal with the risk of climate change.

The real issue with carbon taxes in Canada has always been that they are never constrained to what major trading partners — most importantly, the United States — are prepared to impose on themselves.

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It has never made sense for Canada to impose levels of tax far beyond what trading partners are willing to do.

Canada’s emissions are only 1.5 per cent of current global emissions, while the economic contribution of Canadian hydrocarbon production comprises roughly 25 per cent of Canada’s annual export revenue.

If Canada were to entirely deconstruct its hydrocarbon export industry, as is fundamentally the intention of the federal Liberal regime, it would make no difference on global demand for such energy. Canada’s market share would only shift to countries generating more emissions per unit of hydrocarbon production than in Canada.

If Canada’s major trading partners were to impose $100 per tonne on their emissions, then Canada could meet that level knowing that such a tax would not affect Canadian competitiveness and comparable living standards. Of course, no one would expect those trading partners to accept such a level unless the likes of China — which contributes approximately 30 per cent of global emissions — and India were to also do so.

In the interim, until that condition of consistent carbon taxes across developed economies is met, why should Canada be so altruistic or just plain foolish as to impose such costs on itself? And don’t be deluded, these are real incremental costs to Canada, “rebates” and imperfect border adjustments notwithstanding.

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Canada should focus its efforts on changing the current UN climate process to be based on carbon pricing imposed uniformly across the major global economies, based on primary consideration of the expected costs and benefits of continued hydrocarbon consumption.

That formula should be the foundation of a credible, conservative, market-based position on climate policy.

What it should not be is the outright rejection of carbon taxes while professing to identify with the notion of net zero emissions by 2050, with no credible means of achieving it.

Nor should it include massive public spending to improve the economics of any “clean” technology beyond what is justified by the prevailing carbon and commodity pricing level.

It is problematic seeing major conservative leaders in Canada still talk about achieving net zero without seemingly appreciating the attendant economic costs implicit in achieving it, or indulging in the magical thinking that future technological breakthroughs will imminently provide energy as affordably and reliably as hydrocarbons.

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But worse is the Canadian left, which holds onto the position that no price is too great to pay for creating incremental carbon emission reductions. At no time since the early 1990s in the public debate on appropriate climate policy in Canada has it ever been conceded that some limit is necessary on how much economic contraction current generations are to be asked to bear.

Furthermore, the opportunity for Canada to fully realize its hydrocarbon production potential is actively resisted. Instead, the Canadian left obsesses over the imposition of emission-reductions targets and mandates on electric generation decarbonization, forcing massive new investment to change out existing infrastructure with no sense of net costs and benefits.

The current federal government’s position is climate extremism. It is the same mentality that was reflected in how the government handled the pandemic, where net costs or the short- and long-term benefits were never given adequate consideration.

Sadly, for now Canadians will suffer more affordability issues and lost economic value from diminished hydrocarbon production, or at least until the next federal election.

It should be called immediately. Let Canadians speak on how much climate extremism they really want, if any, or hopefully opt for a credible, market-based climate policy alternative that better preserves Canada’s economic interests.

Dennis McConaghy, a former executive vice-president at TransCanada Corp., now TC Energy, recently published his third book, Carbon Change: Canada on the Brink of Decarbonization.

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