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Carbon tax would be good for P.E.I., says climate expert

A UPEI climate change expert hopes Islanders weigh the evidence from the B.C. carbon tax instead of rejecting the option simply because it includes the word "tax."

"People need to start looking at the evidence," says Adam Fenech, director of the UPEI Climate Research Lab.

He believes carbon pricing would be a good thing.

"I think it's beneficial for both Canada and for Prince Edward Island."

B.C. implemented a carbon tax in 2008, which Fenech said has been an overwhelming success.

Positive for the environment, economy

That's why Fenech doesn't understand the stance taken by several premiers at last week's Council of the Federation meetings in Whitehorse, or lobbying from P.E.I.'s Opposition.

"All of the results from the research show that it's been very positive — for the environment and for the economy. I don't really know why provinces would be opposed to it."

If the P.E.I. government decides to bring in a carbon tax, Fenech recommends it be revenue neutral as it is in B.C. All the money raised through the tax on domestic fossil fuels is used to lower corporate and personal income taxes and rebates.

Winners and losers

There will be winners and losers, but Fenech believes a carbon tax sends the right message.

"It's the type of thing that will promote environmentally friendly activities and hopefully move away from environmentally harmful activities."

Fenech points to research by University of Ottawa professor Stewart Elgie that shows the amount of fuel used by people in B.C. decreased by as much as 17 per cent from 2008 to 2012, versus the rest of Canada where use increased three per cent over the same time period.

"B.C. now has the lowest fuel use per person, it has the lowest income taxes per person, it has the lowest business taxes in the country."

B.C. carbon tax called 'a miracle'

Fenech said people have called B.C.'s carbon tax "a miracle," with influential magazines like The Economist praising the B.C. government for its forward-thinking climate change policy.

While he agrees P.E.I. could reduce its emissions without a carbon tax, Fenech said it's a good motivator for change.

"Sometimes we need to introduce some pretty draconian measures to make sure that people's behaviour will be changing. At least with a carbon tax it allows the marketplace to make those changes for us."

It would not only result in cleaner air here on the Island, but Fenech also said it would help reduce climate change.

A P.E.I. climate change discussion document released a couple of weeks ago asks Islanders to weigh in on carbon pricing. Comments on that document will be accepted until Sunday.

The premier's office told CBC News in an email a decision on carbon pricing will be made by the fall, when the province releases details about its energy and climate change strategies.

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