Monday, September 24, 2012

Peter Kent's Doomed Lemonade Stand

Aaron Wherry generously debunks Peter Kent's latest farcical spin only within the climate change debate, rather than fitting it into a general governance framework. But while I'll stick with my previous take on what the Cons really hope to accomplish in spinning about climate change, it's worth noting just what Kent would be saying if taken at face value:
Kent acknowledges that the government's system of imposing regulations on polluting sectors of the economy comes with costs too, Kent says none of the money will be collected by the government.

"We have absolutely no revenue generation by our regulation of coal-fire," he said.

The coal rules are not free, however. Federal calculations estimate that the new rules in just that one sector will cost about $16 billion in today’s terms. About half of that is due to increased consumption of natural gas that will be the side-effect of cracking down on coal.

But Kent says there is a big difference between those costs and the NDP's costing of its carbon reduction plan. With the Conservative regulations, the costs are spread out over decades, and none of money goes directly to the government, he explained.
Now, keep in mind that this is a minister within the same government which is shutting down and selling off vital public services - depriving countless Canadians of life, limb or livelihood in the process - in the name of deficit reduction. Or, put another way, in the name of closing a gap between expenses and revenue.

One might then think that any even faintly competent administrator would consider more revenue to be a plus. And that goes doubly if the increased revenue is paired with a more efficient means of reaching another stated policy goal.

But according to Kent, the Cons' overriding principle in making government decisions is the glibertarian theory that "revenue = bad". Which would thoroughly disqualify his party from holding office based on the elementary test of being competent to run a lemonade stand. (Though it isn't exactly news that the Cons are more interested in finding creative ways to flog their workers than demonstrating competent organizational management.)

Moreover, by any reasonable comparison of climate change policies, the Cons would then be choosing to impose higher compliance costs on industry (and ultimately consumers) for the sole purpose of avoiding the "evil" of revenue - even when that revenue would serve to reduce exactly the deficit they claim to be fighting.

In sum, Kent's latest spin looks even worse if taken seriously than if brushed off as just another example of the Cons being willing to say anything to delay doing anything about climate change. And it will be worth challenging him to see just how much truth there is to the possibility the Cons really value nothing more than the opportunity to starve the federal government of the revenue it needs to balance the books.

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