Saturday, April 14, 2018

On the social environment

Having written my column this week on one of the more glaring areas of increasingly alarming neglect from the Saskatchewan Party under Scott Moe, I'll take a moment to point out the other single policy change that I find most striking.

D.C. Fraser has reported on a reduction in funding to climate change programming, with that choice having been the subject of some commentary. But a cut in what was already a pathetically small budget line for ministerial operations stands out particularly in the light of one of the few (if tiny) additional revenue sources the budget actually includes:
Saskatchewan Finance Minister Donna Harpauer announced the PST exemption on both light used vehicles and Energy Star appliances will be discontinued. 
...
The Finance Ministry says energy savings already provide a strong financial incentive to buy Energy Star appliances. The removal of this exemption is expected to generate $3 million in revenue.
That explanation is especially noteworthy in treating individual financial considerations as effectively the only reason to value energy-efficient appliances. 

Never mind the seemingly obvious advantages of energy conservation for the purposes of reining in climate change, or minimizing the load on the province's power system. Moe has decided that he doesn't care about those issues - and only wants people making positive consumer choices where (and to the extent) they're based on purely individual financial considerations. 

Of course, that position is entirely on brand with the Saskatchewan Party's hostility toward any policy oriented toward broader environmental issues. And indeed, the removal of incentives for greener consumer purchases can be seen as a mirror image of Moe's intractable refusal to discuss responsible carbon pricing (or any other form of greenhouse gas emission reduction).

But by singling out energy efficiency for higher taxes even while applying his party's boilerplate anti-tax rhetoric elsewhere, Moe is making clear that his party is determined to make the complete rejection of environmental responsibility into a foundational principle - a view which is also consistent with the slashing of the province's already-meager climate change branch. And voters who recognize that we have a common interest in a liveable environment have every reason to push back.

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