Smoky River Regional Economic Development
Regardless of whether you believe in climate change or not, we should all do our part to reduce man’s impact on the environment.
We are all familiar with the mantra “reduce, reuse, recycle” and I think most of us do our best.
The Alberta government has taken Albertans to task for our role in world green house gas emissions and is making us accountable by implementing a carbon tax. They are not alone in this endeavour; the federal government is also pursuing this route.
While it is one thing to hold taxpayers accountable, it would set a good example if the government led by example.
We often read about how miniscule Canada and Alberta’s contribution to GHG emissions are, especially when compared to countries like China, India, Russia or even the United States. Despite this our province wants us to take a lead sustaining the environment.
So, what are they doing on the world stage?
The province of Alberta has 12 international trade offices around the world. Nine of those 12 are in countries, like the ones mentioned above, they are the worst offenders for GHG emissions.
In fact, China, the United States and India combined produce 50 per cent of all emissions. Between 1990 and 2005, China doubled their total emissions.
So, implementing a carbon tax may encourage Alberta residents to reduce, reuse and recycle, but how much of an impact will you and I really have on the global picture?
What would perhaps have an impact is the province of Alberta taking a stand against the true global emitters.
Instead of setting up trade offices in these countries, perhaps the province should look at building opportunities at home to encourage local development.
International shipping contributes more to GHG emission’s than all of Canada does.
Implementing policies and programs to reduce our export of goods from these high emitting companies would have a real impact.
First lower imports would reduce the emissions from these countries, and shopping local, either provincially or nationally made goods would create jobs, reduce GHG emissions on shipping and would fortify our own industries.
An example would be furniture production. Alberta has a very active forest industry.
While China does have a timber industry, they import the majority of their lumber. Due to low labor and production costs, China in turn has developed a vast furniture market, predominately for export.
So, Alberta produces the raw product, ships it to China (among others) and they turn it into value-added products and ship it back to us.
The harm this does to the environment is two-fold. First the cost of GHG emissions by shipping the raw product over there and then shipping the finished product back.
The second impact is the lower standards China has on their production standards and GHG emissions.
If the Alberta government is truly concerned about the environment, they need to start investing in policies and programs that encourage Alberta manufacturing.
The government needs to develop strategies to support industry and entrepreneurs to create locally made products that can compete with foreign produced products.
It will not be an easy task. While Alberta’s minimum wage is moving to $15 per hour, both Mexico and China have a minimum wage of about $1 per hour, making it an attractive place for manufacturers to move.
Add to that competitive tax regimes and low shipping costs, it is no wonder many of our goods come from other countries, even if those countries have lower GHG emission standards, lower wages, and few human rights.
I encourage you to look around your house, look in your closet, even glance in your fridge, and see how few products you have in your house that comes from a local producer or manufacturer.
Now imagine if we could purchase all those goods locally what opportunities would exist in our communities for new businesses and lots of new jobs.
Would we have a greenhouse in every community, a local furniture manufacturer, local seamstresses and tailors, leather manufactures, a local butcher shop, and the list goes on?
Making Albertan’s pay a carbon tax is a bit like photo radar. It is a penalty that doesn’t result in a desired benefit. Most Albertans can afford the extra cost of the tax, but will they reduce their usage?
A carbon tax is an easy answer for the government to give the appearance that they are doing something for the environment. The harder answer is requires truly addressing the issue.