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British Columbians like the carbon tax, says new poll

With taxes at the pump scheduled to increase by just over a penny at midnight tonight, the B.C. carbon tax remains as popular as ever, according to a new Pembina Institute poll.

Of the 830 British Columbians surveyed, 69 per cent expressed some degree of worry over global warming. Asked how the provincial government should raise revenue, taxes on carbon and other pollutants proved to be the second most popular choice behind corporate income taxes.

“I'm actually surprised at the level of support that the carbon tax is gaining here in British Columbia,” says Tom Pederson, director of the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions, a University of Victoria based think tank that helped fund the poll. “It's a testament to the structure of the tax, its implementation, and to the foresight of British Columbians.”

Matt Horne, director of the Pembina Institute's B.C. Energy Solutions program attributes the apparent popularity of the tax to the public's familiarity with it.

“When the carbon tax was first implemented, there was a lot of public debate about it,” says Horne. “There still is some public debate about it, but it seems to be largely focused on how to make the tax better, not whether or not we should have it at all.”

Tonight's rate hike, in which a tonne of carbon will rise from $25 to $30, is the last in a series of increases scheduled with the introduction of the tax in 2008.

A slight majority of respondents in the Pembina poll said that they do not support further increases to the tax.

But according to Pederson, holding the tax constant at $30 per tonne would be a serious policy mistake.

“The reason that the tax is so important is that as is scheduled to keep going up, it encourages people to think long-term,” he says.

Since its inception, the B.C. carbon tax has been entirely offset by tax credits to low-income households and decreases in personal and corporate income taxes.

When asked how the government should manage revenue generated by the carbon tax, however, poll respondents were split between public investment and personal income tax cuts. While 56 per cent felt that the government should divert the carbon tax revenue stream towards “other government priorities like healthcare and education,” green infrastructure investment and additional reductions in personal income also garnered considerable support.

When asked about the policy implications of the poll results, Pederson is optimistic.

“I hope that this will be seen as an encouraging signal for where Canada can go as a nation.”

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