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BC will refund carbon taxes to municipalities: Campbell

Premier Gordon Campbell has promised to refund carbon taxes to B.C. municipalities that commit to becoming carbon neutral by 2012.

The premier’s announcement came only hours after the UBCM called on Campbell to exempt northern communities and municipalities from B.C.’s first-in-North-America carbon tax.

“I was encouraged to hear about your frank and honest debate this morning,” Campbell told the UBCM. “So this is what we’re going to do... We’re going to give you a way to get 100 per cent of your carbon taxes back.”

The B.C. Liberal Premier continued: “We’re going to create a new conditional grant, the Climate Action Revenue Incentive... which will offset the entire cost of your carbon tax with one condition: To be eligible, you have to sign on to the Climate Action Charter, and commit to us and to your citizens to becoming carbon neutral by 2012.”

More than 130 of the province’s 180-plus local governments have already committed to the charter. Local governments will be required to report annually on what steps they are taking to become carbon neutral.

“This is not a tax exemption. It's a new conditional grant. We will still collect the tax. And we will flow every penny of that revenue directly to tax cuts for taxpayers across the province,” Campbell said.

A similar program will be developed for local boards of education, Campbell said.

“We are already all paying the price for inaction,” Campbell said. “The carbon tax was never about raising revenue. It was about reducing greenhouse gasses. It was about making real changes to improve our environment.”

NDP environment critic Shane Simpson responded to the announcement with scorn.

"This is political panic,” Simpson said. “The Premier is down in the polls. So he’s trying to blackmail these groups with taxpayers’ money. He’s saying, ‘If you buy into my plan, I’ll give you all your money back.'"

Monte Paulsen is editor of The Hook.

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