Campbell’s carbon tax needs to go — and here’s why

Thursday, April 23, 2009

I’ve pretty much had it with David Suzuki continually spouting off about the carbon tax in this province.

Now he’s waded into the election campaign, declaring he won’t vote for the NDP — long the party of favour for environmentalists — because its leader, Carole James, has declared she will axe the tax if elected.

James has never impressed me as premier material and her political speeches have often sounded tried and tired, but on this one, she’s right.

The tax needs to go — and here’s why.

There is more to British Columbia than Metro Vancouver and Victoria.

Not everyone lives a healthy hike from the nearest SkyTrain stop.

I’ve looked all over Kamloops and I just can’t find one anywhere.

Not everyone can bike to work. I know I can’t for many reasons.

It’s a good 17 kilometres from my house to work and, to be honest, I couldn’t bike that far if there was a motor attached to the two wheels.

Besides, bikes don’t come with sidecars for two teenagers, who I drive in to the city for school every day.

Yes, they could take the bus, but that means a two-hour ride there — and another two-hour ride back home — and I just don’t think those four hours sitting in a diesel-powered, exhaust-spewing bus going both ways is a good idea.

It would be 20 hours a week on a bus; think of it as spending half your work week perched precariously on those bench seats, trying not to slide off as the bus lurches from stop to stop.

Some will point to the recent Statistics Canada report that says people in Vancouver have longer commutes than those of us who live outside the centre of all things British Columbian — but that ignores the fact that there, they at least have options.

The final reason is that, in my job — as in many of your jobs — a car is essential.

I worked with a reporter who refused to learn to drive, taking cabs to all of his assignments. Never could figure out where he got all the money to pay for that, because it’s not an expense most publishers will approve.

I can’t afford one of those fancy hybrid-electric-100-miles-to-the-gallon vehicles Suzuki and so many other environmentalists now drive.

If I could, I’d certainly buy one because those fill-ups at the PetroCan pumps every week are expensive.

But my income isn’t in the six figures — or even five big ones.

A friend suggested I sell my house and its two acres out on the edge of the city and buy something downtown, where the boys wouldn’t have to spend so long on the bus and I could bike to work.

I’m hoping he was joking because, as committed as I am to doing what I can to save the world, nothing is going to pry me away from my own hunk of heaven, a place where I can sit out back, look at the hills and the river and enjoy tranquility and silence.

Not sure the last time those two were found in the hustle and bustle of downtown Kamloops.

I think James has actually got it right with her cap-and-trade proposal, which would see the biggest polluters in the province — I’m pretty sure Domtar has more emissions than my little Buick, the husband’s Ford and our high-efficiency furnace combined.

(Although I have to admit it’s disconcerting to see James now promoting something she dumped on heavily when the Liberals brought in legislation to create this very system. But then, it is election time, when political posturing and compromise are apparently required behaviours.)

I do the best I can to preserve the environment, as most of you likely do. I compost, recycle, reuse, repair, try to buy locally and organically, avoid drive-thrus on the rare occasions I go to a fast-food restaurant and don’t spray my fruit trees with pesticides.

And, for doing all of this, I get the pleasure of watching the cost of many of the essentials of my life going up, courtesy of this tax — and I’ve yet to see any of those touted tax cuts that are supposed to offset it all for me — and for most of you, too.

Ask Liberals if they agree with charging kids to use bus

Sunday, April 19, 2009

If there was ever a reason to not vote for the Liberals next month, it comes courtesy of Shirley Bond.

The woman who once sat as a trustee on a school board in Prince George — where 4,500 students ride buses 11,500 kilometres in total every day on 64 regular and 13 custom routes — now says parents should pay to send their kids to school by bus.

Perhaps this is yet another initiative by her government to cut down on school-bus emissions.

After all, if the buses aren’t rolling, they aren't spewing exhaust.

This is the same government that has allocated $1.1 million for special filters to be retrofitted on buses to reduce those noxious fumes.

This is the same government that has introduced an experiment in Kelowna with a hybrid electric school bus – at a cost of about $50,000 more than a regular diesel-fuelled bus.

They seem to know the buses are bad for health, but don’t understand how vital they are for education.

And now, just to hammer it home, School District 73 trustee Annette Glover, chairwoman of the finance and planning committee for SD73, has said the committee is prepared to recommend transportation fees in September if the province doesn’t come up with more money to cover the shortfall — although her press release doesn’t say how much will be charged.

So here are some questions to ask Liberal candidates Kevin Krueger and Terry Lake, should you happen upon them on the election trail in the next few weeks.

Do they believe education is a basic right?

Do they believe government has an obligation to deliver education?

Are they prepared to develop some sort of tax credit for parents who can’t afford to pay for transportation but who will be topping up the tanks with that lovely, ever-increasing carbon tax the Liberals have imposed on us all?

And let’s all remember that tax is supposed to hit an extra 7.2 cents a litre in just three years.

You could ask the Gordon Campbell boys why they’ve spent millions and millions of dollars in their green push to make school buses belch less and are now willing to throw that all away for those of us who can’t afford the hybrids and electric cars to make that drive back and forth every day.

Ask them what they plan to do with the traffic congestion that will be created on neighbourhood streets as those parents who won’t be able to afford the extra $20 per child per month.

This would be the amount school boards are now being told to charge just for the privilege of ensuring your kids get the education they are legally required to receive.

By the way, if you believe that $20 figure, the Liberals have a bridge to sell you.

Glover notes in her release that request for reviews by the B.C. School Trustees Association have been met by Bond with “total disregard.”

Sure, it’s easy to be mad at the B.C. Teachers’ Federation and its ad campaign advocating so many things for the school system, but maybe we should also be angry with an arrogant government determined to download everything onto families.

It’s so convenient to just criticize teachers as whiners who want everything their way: smaller classes, more support for special-needs classes and greater understanding that when a school closes, it impacts a community.

In fact, it’s almost a mantra for some to dump on teachers as greedy, overpaid, underworked leeches — but I wouldn’t want their job.

Because anyone who thinks teachers only work from the moment the bell rings at 8:30 a.m. to the closing bell at 2:30 is sorely mistaken.

Just as is anyone who thinks the way to handle the funding crisis that is crippling our education system is to charge parents for transportation.

Kids are our future.

Does it make sense to put financial barriers in front of that future?