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Alexei Simakov

Revenue-neutral carbon pricing is the right policy

Of the many changes announced at last weekend’s Ontario P.C. annual convention in Ottawa, party leader Patrick Brown’s endorsement of carbon pricing is by far the most contentious with the rank and file. From the uncertain murmurs throughout his speech on Saturday to the polarizing debates running long into the night, it’s clear that many in party didn’t take kindly to the new idea. This is unfortunate, for both our electoral prospects and for Ontario. Climate change is becoming an increasingly important issue, not just politically, but for our economy and society as well. The P.C. party needs to do more than just respond to this issue; it needs to take the lead with innovative ideas. William F. Buckley told us to “stand athwart history, yelling stop.” If we want anyone to listen, we’re going to need to offer them a compelling alternative. For years the conservative movement in Canada has failed to constructively engage in the conversation to combat climate change. Our responses have ranged wildly, from denying its very existence or its anthropogenic causes, to denouncing every possible policy as a tax grab, or at best conceding the urgent need for action, but not in these times of economic uncertainty. By disengaging before it even started, we’ve left the conversation entirely in the hands of the Liberals and NDP. So how can we be surprised that their solutions consist entirely of higher taxes, more intrusive government and the asphyxiation of our oil and gas sector? By failing to propose and enact meaningful alternatives, we have nobody to blame but ourselves. The Green Conservatism panel at last weekend’s Manning Centre Conference addressed this very issue. One of the speakers, McGill economics professor Christopher Ragan, made clear skepticism isn’t by itself a strategy: “If we have a problem that we… Read More

Falling Oil Prices – An Opportunity to Reform Fuel Subsidies

The recent collapse in oil prices, from over $100 a barrel in June to $65 today, is being felt in every corner of the world. From undermining Russia’s position in the Ukraine crisis to opening Iran up to further concessions in the ongoing nuclear negotiations, the price of oil continues to be a critical factor in the world’s balance of geopolitical power. While most Canadians will rejoice at cheaper gasoline prices and not give it a second thought, it is important to remember that the equation isn’t the same for much of the developing world. From Indonesia to Ecuador, Nigeria to Russia, federal and state governments subsidized their citizens fuel and electricity consumption by $550 billion last year, according to the International Energy Agency, fourfold the global subsidy for renewable energy. An inheritance of populist­ ideologues from the decolonization era, subsidies are universally decried by academics as a major retardant on socioeconomic development. The Iranian regime for example, buys public support by providing gasoline at 45 cents a gallon, but this came with a bill of $82 billion in 2012, a fifth of the country’s entire GDP. The result is chronic traffic congestion, world record air pollution, and billions worth of gasoline smuggled out of the country annually. In countries like Yemen the government wastes as much as a third of its budget, a figure that fluctuates wildly according to the volatility of international oil prices, undermining financial stability. Even major crude exporters like Nigeria are burdened with a massive bill as they must import the refined product from overseas. This has brought few benefits to the poor, the supposed beneficiaries of these policies. The IMF estimates that only 7% of fuel subsidies reach the bottom 20% of households, while 43% of it goes to the wealthiest 20%, much of… Read More