I worry that someday I will have to sit down and be polite with Federal Minister of Natural Resources Greg Rickford. I have just read his April 4th Globe and Mail interview in which he slags carbon pricing of any sort.
He also slags Justin Trudeau: ” To put it simply, if elected Prime Minister Justin Trudeau would nationally impose a risky unilateral scheme that would, by necessity, require carbon taxes; impose higher prices on every single thing Canadians buy; and hurt Canada’s economy and competitiveness.” That is a creative interpretation of what Trudeau appears to have said, but I hear that all is fair in politics. Putting words in your boss’s opponents mouth is part of the job.
What bothers me is the rabid and inaccurate description of the effects of pricing carbon. I do believe that if Greg were setting up a carbon pricing system it could be as bad as he says. On the other hand, If I were setting it up Canadians would end up better off and even richer. (Look some of my earlier pieces to see how.)
My first impulse when I read his comments was to wonder whether Rickford is stupid, ignorant, or a liar. It is the same response I had when Prime Minister Harper talked about the “job-killing carbon tax.” I am a good enough economist to know there is no evidence for this view. There was no evidence when he said it and there is now evidence against it coming from B.C., to give just one example.
The problem is that Harper doesn’t understand the economy very well. This is the Prime Minister who inherited a $13 billion annual surplus and has never since balanced a budget. This is the Prime Minister who added $118 billion to the National Debt. This is the Prime Minister who bet the farm on the oil industry and undermined the economies of central Canada. This is the Prime Minister who claims to be a responsible economic manager. If you can’t trust what he says about the economy in general, why would anyone believe what he says about carbon pricing in particular?
I try to be generous in interpreting what Mr Rickford said. Maybe Greg Rickford really doesn’t know the truth. I know the Federal Cabinet is living in a bubble. The people in Environment Canada and in the Finance Department who tried to explain that Harper was wrong have been silenced. Maybe because he is Minister for the Oil Industry he gets a pass to lie about other economic and environmental policies. It is possible Greg Rickford is just being a good team player. Maybe he believes that getting the Conservatives elected one more time is more important than getting economics right. Maybe Greg is a true believer.
The trouble is, as a Minister for Canada, he is responsible for getting things right. He has to get our national development strategy right. He has to make sure the long-run climate is not a disaster for Canadians. He is not allowed to sacrifice the truth for his faith or his party.