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UBCM would exempt rural areas from carbon tax

The long-simmering revolt against B.C.’s first-in-North-America carbon tax exploded onto the floor of the UBCM convention in Penticton on Wednesday morning, as representatives from rural parts of the province pushed through a motion to exempt rural residents from portions of the tax.

A package of a dozen “greenhouse gas reduction initiatives” that would ask the province to mitigate the impact of the B.C. Carbon Tax on municipalities – and to create incentives for local governments and residents to reduce emissions – was the second resolution to go the the convention floor.

The first speaker to the motion offered an amendment that would make exceptions for “areas where residents cannot make choices” about fuel use and carbon emissions “due to distance,” which was widely interpreted to mean exemptions for the northern and interior sections of the province.

“This carbon tax is like salt in a wound,” said Karen Goodings, chair of the Peace River Regional District, who moved the rural exemptions amendment. “We are struggling as agriculture, silvaculture and resource industries.”

UBCM members passionately debated the merits of such a rural-areas exemption for the next half an hour.

Burnaby Mayor Derrick Corrigan was among the few urban representatives who joined the chorus of rural representatives speaking for a rural-area exemption.

“This is the equivalent of a poll tax that redistributes wealth to the wealthy,” Corrigan told the UBCM convention. “At the very least, we can consider the very special case of our northern communities. It’s the hinterland of B.C. that's allowing us to have the kind of growth we have.”

Councillor Vic Derman, from the District of Saanich, was among several who spoke against the rural exemption amendment.

“Yes, we have some difference in the province, but we all share the same global airshed,” Derman said. “The issue here is not who gets the last drink of gin on the Titantic. The issue is changing the direction of the boat before it hits the iceberg.”

The amendment to exempt rural areas carried after a close vote.

A second amendment, to ask the province to freeze the tax at 2008 levels until all local economic effects could be assessed, failed.

Debate on the amended greenhouse gas reduction initiatives began shortly before lunchtime. The Hook will report on the outcome of that debate later today.

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