BC United promises carbon tax relief if elected government next year, says Falcon

VICTORIA — British Columbia's Opposition leader is promising to immediately introduce cuts to the province's carbon tax if elected to form government next year, and says if the Conservatives are elected in Ottawa he'll follow their lead and eliminate the tax completely.

Federal Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre has pledged to abolish the federal carbon tax if he's elected prime minister in the next election.

BC United Leader Kevin Falcon supported the tax when he was in the previous B.C. Liberal government, but said on Tuesday that circumstances have changed.

"If the decision is made to eliminate the (federal) carbon tax, I'm not going to leave B.C. in a disadvantage position being the only province that is going to have a $95 per tonne carbon tax," Falcon said Tuesday at a news conference.

"We will get rid of the carbon tax in B.C.," he said.

The BC United leader said people in the province are facing financial struggles, paying among the highest home, rent and fuel costs in North America, and cutting back on the carbon tax would be one of his proposed relief measures.

Falcon said he would cut the province's carbon tax on all fuels and halt planned future increases if elected to form government next year.

BC United would give motorists a break by eliminating the provincial fuel tax, currently at about 15 cents per litre on gasoline and diesel, and remove the carbon tax on all home-heating fuels, including oil, natural gas and propane, he said.

The BC United position comes after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced a temporary exemption for the federal carbon tax on home heating oil, but that doesn't apply to British Columbia because the province has its own carbon tax.

Falcon said BC United would also remove the carbon tax on farm fuel to cut operational costs for farmers and lower grocery costs for consumers.

"What we've said is we will do what we have control over, and that's eliminating the provincial taxes that are within our jurisdiction," he said.

He estimated his proposed cuts would have an impact on provincial revenues of almost $5 billion over three years, which is about two per cent of the B.C. budget.

Premier David Eby called Falcon a "weather vane" during question period in the legislature for changing his previous carbon tax support in favour of shifting federal political winds.

He said the federal Liberals, and now Falcon's BC United, are "flip flopping on the carbon tax."

Eby suggested Falcon is feeling the heat from the new political presence of the B.C. Conservative Party, which now has two members sitting in the legislature. Both of them are previous members of Falcon's caucus.

"I understand that the member is under a lot of pressure from the Conservative Party," he said. "But standing up, after the summer we had, for British Columbia to be a leader on climate change is an important thing."

B.C. had a record wildfire season for area burned and hundreds of homes were destroyed. Drought also covered most of the province and is only now easing in southern B.C., while parts of the north are still ranked at the highest drought levels.

Falcon introduced B.C.'s first carbon tax in 2008 under the former provincial Liberal government, but said the tax is getting too expensive for people and it's not resulting in reductions to harmful greenhouse gas emissions.

"There comes a time when you just have to say, 'You know what, what we're doing is not working, in fact it's having negative impacts,'" he said. "We've got to change that."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 31, 2023.

Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press