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Expand carbon tax, contain fish farms: Horgan

Juan de Fuca MLA John Horgan releases his environmental platform in Victoria Wednesday, including a proposal to establish a new division of BC Hydro to develop publicly owned small renewable energy projects. - Tom Fletcher/Black Press
Juan de Fuca MLA John Horgan releases his environmental platform in Victoria Wednesday, including a proposal to establish a new division of BC Hydro to develop publicly owned small renewable energy projects.
— image credit: Tom Fletcher/Black Press

VICTORIA – Admitting his party was wrong to campaign against the carbon tax on fossil fuels, NDP leadership candidate John Horgan has called for the tax to be extended to large industrial emitters.

Releasing what he called the first environmental platform of any leadership candidate from either party, Horgan also pledged a moratorium on new run-of-river power projects and "transitioning away" from open-pen fish farms off the B.C. coast.

Horgan denied that he is advocating the shutdown of existing fish farms. He said closed-containment technology using bags suspended in the ocean is developing, and existing leases for net-pen salmon farms will eventually expire.

"Closed containment is the only way I can see the aquaculture industry surviving in the long term," he said.

Horgan wants a review of existing contracts with private hydro power producers. He also proposed setting up a new division of BC Hydro he calls BC Renewables, to develop publicly owned small and medium-sized hydro, wind, solar and tidal power projects.

Cement plants, natural gas plants and other large emitters of carbon dioxide pay the tax on fuel they use in vehicles and machinery, but the emissions from industrial processes were exempted when the tax was introduced in 2008. Horgan wants to end that exemption, but he acknowledges that B.C. risks pushing investment in carbon-intensive plants to Alberta or Washington state.

"The oil and gas sector is doing very well in British Columbia," Horgan said. "The cement industry were active opponents to the carbon tax. I would sit down with carbon-intensive industries and determine what's in the best interests of them continuing to provide employment and investment in British Columbia, but not exclusively to their benefit."

Carbon tax revenues on gasoline and other fuels are currently offset by personal income tax cuts and credits for low-income earners. Horgan said he would use expanded carbon tax revenues to fund transit and subsidies to improve home insulation and take old cars off the road.

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