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Tory ad calls carbon tax 'dangerous'; oil sands firms disagree

The federal Conservatives' new attack ad against opposition leader Thomas Mulcair refers to a carbon tax as 'dangerous'. Several leading oil sands firms, meanwhile, alongside 150 of Canada's top corporations, publicly support such a policy.

"[The NDP's] dangerous economic experiments include a carbon tax that'll raise the price of everything," a deep-voiced narrator declares, "including gas, groceries and hydro."

The Tory ad, released Monday, is apparently a reference to Mulcair's stated support for a national system of cap and trade.

That system would put limits -- a "cap" -- on Canada's greenhouse gas emissions, and compel companies to pay for the privilege of releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

A carbon tax would similarly put a price on greenhouse gas emissions, but without the hard "cap".

Federal environment minister Peter Kent recently told CBC that "carbon pricing in any form is a carbon tax." Such a policy, he added, "would get Canadians at the gas pump for example, and right across the economy."

Leading oil sands firms like Suncor and Cenovus, however, told The Tyee Solutions Society that the best way for Canada to shrink its carbon footprint is to turn CO2 into a direct financial cost.

"We think a price should be put on carbon," said Suncor's VP of sustainable development, Gordon Lambert. "Ideally the model would be a national carbon tax."

And the Canadian Council of Chief Executives, an industry group representing the country's major corporations, said in a report last year that, "The most effective means of promoting energy conservation is to allow energy prices to rise."

The report added: "Governments must resist the temptation to shield Canadians from higher energy prices."

Until May 2011, the federal Conservatives actually appeared to support a national system of cap and trade.

Indeed, Stephen Harper's government claimed in December 2009 to be “working in collaboration with the provinces and territories to develop a cap and trade system."

Geoff Dembicki reports on energy and climate change issues for The Tyee.

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