Vancouver-Fairview NDP MLA Gregor Robertson won’t reveal if he’ll vote with NDP Leader Carole James in opposition to the B.C. Liberal carbon tax.
In a phone interview with the Georgia Straight from Victoria, Robertson, the one-term MLA and Vision Vancouver mayoral candidate, said he has not yet decided whether to support or reject B.C. Finance Minister Carole Taylor’s Carbon Tax Act, Bill 37, which currently sits at first reading in the legislature.
“I will decide that based on the receptivity to amendments to make it more effective and fair,” Robertson said. “I totally support the principle of a carbon tax, but this one has lots of inadequacies, and I am hopeful we can address that with amendments and debate.”
Both Robertson’s MLA Web site, www.gregorbc.ca/, and his mayoral campaign site, www.gregor08.ca/, stress his environmental leanings. However, neither site has much to say on the carbon tax, which James opposes. At the annual meeting of northern B.C. municipalities in Prince George on May 9, James said her party would vote against the legislation when it comes up for a vote.
In a phone interview with the Straight, James referred to Taylor’s bill several times as “a gas tax”. She added that many environmental groups thought the carbon tax was a good “symbolic” first step; an argument James said she disagrees with.
“I think we need more than symbols to deal with climate change,” she said. “The public is much more likely to do its part if they see that everybody is doing their part. But to expect the public to begin to pay now, while you let the big polluters off the hook and increase subsidies to the oil-and-gas sector, is simply the wrong direction.”
Robertson said he has concerns about “how this bill has been constructed”, claiming it exempts commercial transport, B.C. fuel designated for export, and “interjurisdictional” travel.
“All the big emitters are exempted and they [B.C. Liberals] say we will get to that with cap and trade, but if we are serious about it, we would deal with the big emitters up-front with a carbon tax,” he said.
On November 30, 2007, Kitsilano-based Voters Taking Action on Climate Change held a holiday event at the Wired Monk coffee bistro on West 4th Avenue. The purpose of the event was to raise awareness of the carbon tax and communicate directly with Taylor through a letter-writing campaign.
Robertson was not in attendance, but the meeting was attended by fellow Vision mayoral hopeful Coun. Raymond Louie and NPA councillor and mayoral candidate Peter Ladner. Former Vancouver Green party school trustee Andrea Reimer, who is now working on Robertson’s mayoral campaign, also put in an appearance.
VTACC cofounders Donald Gordon and Kevin Washbrook pushed relentlessly to keep the carbon tax under the noses of Taylor and Premier Gordon Campbell, the latter having vowed to cut B.C.’s greenhouse-gas emissions 33 percent by 2020. Bill 37 was introduced in the legislature on April 28.
In response to James’s comments, Gordon told the Straight: “It is natural for them [the NDP] to oppose it, especially as they have yet to come out with anything else that they can point the voters toward—out of their own policies—to support.”
James said she will not be rushed into drafting a policy, adding: “We will be putting forward our climate-change plan. It will be in our platform in the next election.”¦We will take our time to talk to the public over the summer. We will be consulting British Columbians. Unlike Gordon Campbell, I actually believe in talking to the public about these issues and we will be bringing forward a very clear direction.”
Taylor told the Straight she is “pretty shocked” at the stance James is taking.
“It really has been surprising to me that a political party that prides itself on caring about the environment and green initiatives and climate change looks as though, almost across the board, they are going to vote against every climate-change initiative that we have brought in,” Taylor said by phone. “It does seem to be that the environment is an issue where you can’t just talk about it; you actually have to take some actions. It does position us, I guess, to the left of the NDP on it. But I don’t think it should be a partisan issue. I think it is something we should all be involved in and just work to get through it and start to take action. But I am pretty shocked at this.”